Path to Redemption? Ron Artest Raffling Off Lakers Championship Ring

Tom SmithCorrespondent IOctober 16, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Ron Artest #37 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Ron Artest is actually going through with what many thought was an idle promise to raffle off his championship ring and donate the proceeds to charity.

Artest is doing something that actually impresses me.

To put that in context, let's get something out of the way immediately.

I don't like Ron Artest.

Nothing that follows is even remotely connected to is abilities on the court. I have almost no respect for him as a human being.

I have not liked Ron Artest since his freshman year at St. John's.

I don't like the man who admitted getting drunk before games as a Chicago Bull.

I don't like the man who smashed a $100,000 TV camera at Madison Square Garden.

I don't like the man who publicly asked his coach for a month off from the Pacers early in the 2004-05 season to promote a music album he had produced.

I really don't like the man who acted like a complete punk in an altercation with Ben Wallace, and ended up charging into the stands like a deranged lunatic at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

The man who, after returning from a year-long suspension, publicly requested a trade from the Pacers since he didn't think playing for coach Rick Carlisle could maximize his potential to be a star, is someone deserving of contempt.

How one player's actions can so completely destroy a franchise is sickening. Artest is that player. His role in the destruction of the Indiana Pacers should not be forgotten by anyone who wants to embrace the lovable Ron-Ron after this past season.

I won't even mention his arrest for domestic violence in 2007, or that the Kings, so desperate to be rid of this madman, gave him to the Rockets for essentially nothing (sorry, Bobby Jackson, but it's true).

He is a loose cannon, and a thug. He is also likely crazy.

Anyone who saw that touching, but sad, rambling rant of a press conference Artest conducted after the Lakers won the 2009-10 championship knows that Artest is suffering from some kind of mental illness.

Anytime someone takes a podium and thanks their psychiatrist for helping them win a basketball championship, you know something is wrong.

Ron Artest has recently been seeking help in dealing with his inner lunatic.

That is commendable.

Artest is working to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness, particularly in the world of sports.

That is also commendable.

Now Artest is preparing to raise what will likely be a sizable amount of money and donate that money to charities that increase mental-health awareness.

These three things almost bother me.

Why?

Because now I'm going to have to respect the man a bit more than I did.

I still don't like him. He's got such a long history of being an awful man, that it will take a lot more than this to compensate for his past.

No, I don't like him, but I'm starting to respect the man.

The beneficiaries of the auction will be announced on October 27, the day after the Lakers receive their rings. The raffle drawing itself will be on Christmas Day.