Ron Artest Gives Away One Ring to Gain Another
His bad-boy-turned-beloved Lakers teammate isn't giving away his first championship ring for charity's sake alone, although Artest's desire to shed light on the issue of mental health is both altruistic and admirable. There's a motivational factor at play here, too, one that anyone who knew Artest's mindset before his road to redemption would fully understand.
Quick history lesson here: Artest once said he could die homeless and die happy so long as he had won the NBA ring that eluded him until last June. It was an effective, all-or-nothing psychological approach, to be sure, but how does one stay motivated after that carrot has been swallowed and enjoyed? By starting the ring count over at zero again, of course.
"Basically he wanted to create a situation where he wanted to be as hungry or more hungry to win another one as he was to win the first one," the five-time champion Fisher explained to reporters after Monday's practice. "So he figured, 'Let me give away the first one, and then I'll be hungry to get another one.' It makes sense when you really think about it. I mean I won't be doing it, but it makes sense."
Artest will finally get his ring Tuesday night at the Staples Center, accepting it temporarily and then raffling it off on Christmas Day before the Lakers take on Miami. It should be one of the greatest days of his fascinating life, a chance to formalize his championship status and relish taking part in the proceedings that he could only watch from a distance last year.
Except that Artest, who had circled this day on his own career calendar since he was playing on the blacktops in Queensbridge, N.Y., has been ready to move forward for months. He is, as coach Phil Jackson pointed out, perpetually determined to not be bored. And reliving last year's title, at this point anyway, is clearly not what excites him anymore.
"We've celebrated enough after we won it and during the championship, so I just want to worry about the game (against Houston)," Artest said. "We've got to win that game (Tuesday). It starts (Tuesday), a new season. We did what we had to do last year to win the championship, and it presented all these opportunities and all these ideas and for it to go toward mental health awareness, and I'm pretty happy about that. That's already an emotion I'm pretty happy about it, so I don't have to worry about that as much."
It's not the only item crossed off his list of worries.
Artest enters the 2011-12 campaign without the burdens of before, when he was not only the newest Laker entering this championship culture but an infamous character whose past had surely created insecurities. He yielded to the ring leader, Kobe Bryant, at every turn, quietly agonized when Jackson needled him in the media (save for his one session of Twitter-therapy in the postseason), and privately wondered why more wasn't made of his sacrifices made en route to the top.
Yet he's one of them now, a more comfortable and confident Laker who endeared himself to the masses with his unforgettable Game 7 postgame press conference and is doing it again with his ring give-a-way. As Artest discussed the inspiration for his charitable decision on Monday, one local media man had a simple statement rather than a question, saying, "You're amazing," as if a subconscious thought somehow slipped out. From Ron-Ron the reviled to Ron-Ron the revered.
"It's an important issue, something I grew up around and that's important in my life and in my neighborhood and neighborhoods around the world," Artest said. "The ring idea came from my (singing) artist, Shin Shin (on his Tru Warier label). She said, 'It'd be cool, and you'll bring a lot of awareness if you give something for something.'
"I was looking at my (2003-04) Defensive Player of the Year award and everything like that, and I was like, 'Wow, maybe the rings. I was like, 'Yeah, it's perfect, and it's something that can help others, that's materialistic.' But the championship? You can never take that away from somebody."
The raffle is being conducted through Artest's personal website, with tickets being sold for $2 apiece (with a minimum purchase of five) and the proceeds being given to two non-profit organizations (one local, one national) that help raise mental health awareness. Those beneficiaries will be announced on Wednesday.
After 20 years as a player and coach, Lakers assistant and longtime Artest confidant Chuck Person will be receiving his first ring as well. Person said their shared history, from his days with him in Indiana and Sacramento to the happier times in the modern day, will be running through his mind during the ceremony.
"We got together in Indiana some eight years ago, and to evolve into what has happened with the Lakers here, to me, is the mother of all end games," Person said. "Ron is a special guy. He has gone through a lot, come through a lot, but he prevailed.
"He was almost out of the league (after the 2004 Detroit-Indiana brawl) and he understood that. But he persevered through it all. He'll be accepting his first championship ring, and he deserves it -- more than anybody I've ever seen in my life."
Even if he doesn't hold onto it for long.
E-mail Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @samickAOL.