Some people will say that Ron Artest hasn’t done enough to qualify as a villain, but when you are the instigator of the most notorious altercation in NBA history, I think you’ve done quite enough.
Remember, bonus points are awarded to villains who help fuel David Stern’s transformation into a Michael Corleone-style dictator. Well, the brawl in Detroit is comparable to Fredo’s betrayal of Michael, as this was the last straw for Stern.
From now on Stern would lay the hammer down on the players like never before in NBA history. This is what launches Artest into the starting lineup.
When else do you remember the defining moment of an entire NBA season as a fight? It was an event that will live on in NBA infamy, moving the league off the sports pages to the front pages for all the wrong reasons.
Stern suspended him for the rest of the year, and a total of 86 games overall—an unprecedented amount. Artest’s teammates were also suspended for long periods of time, rendering a championship contender paralyzed.
The Pacers were the defending division champions, and were eager to avenge an Eastern Conference Finals defeat to the Pistons. They had a solid core of Jermaine O’Neal, Artest, Stephen Jackson, and Jamaal Tinsley, with a solid supporting cast that included Reggie Miller.
After the incident though, the Pacers never recovered. They made it to the playoffs, but were defeated by the Pistons again. Artest came back the next year, but wasn’t the player of old. He struggled, became more of a distraction than an asset, and was traded to the Kings.
I guarantee you that one player has not been hated by a majority of the country as Artest was after that incident. Heck, he was probably even disliked by Pacers fans for ruining a season.
One cannot entirely blame Artest for the incident—you have to impart some blame on the fan who threw the beer onto Artest. Heck, I would be furious too if somebody threw a beer at me. But as a professional athlete, he crossed a line that forever tarnished his legacy.
On the court, Artest was the reigning defensive player of the year, and the best on-the-ball defender in the game. Artest’s offensive game, though ugly, is efficient enough to average 16-plus points a game.
Like the previous two villains, Artest also brings a nasty streak to the game. Basically, this is one man you just wouldn’t want to mess with on a dark alley by yourself, cause he’s also kind of crazy.
The only thing that could resurrect his career is playing on a championship team.Tthere are rumors of the Lakers possibly acquiring him in order to add some toughness and defensive presence. I’m guessing Lamar Odom’s lack of fortitude is frustrating Lakers fans.
If the status quo remains, my enduring memory of Artest will not be the brawl in Detroit, but his surprise opening act performance as a rapper at a concert I attended, where he spewed these lyrics of obvious musical genius:
“Yo, I'm Ron Artest and I aint no Kobe,
My game's on higher level, like Obi Wan Kenobi.
No wait, I aint no white dude in a robey..."
That’s right Ron, there’s no way you're Obi Wan—because with those atrocious lyrics, you definitely deserve to be a villain, Darth Vader style.