The Ron Artest Story: One Year with the Houston Rockets

Sean FearonCorrespondent IMay 7, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 13:  Ron Artest #96 of the Houston Rockets dribbles against the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 13, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  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: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

This is not an article based on facts and figures, or whether or not this gifted character will ever be, say MVP. He won't. He will never be.

Instead, I write about how the annals of history will remember an athlete with a bad temper, and how he will never be given a second chance.

This is not a pathetic attempt to scamper up onto a seriously overcrowded soap-box and preach to you, the readers, about how many of you may have mercilessly judged this man. Nor will I recall the events of what is undoubtedly the darkest day in NBA history.

Ron Artest was never the bandwagon kinda guy. He was different, and still is. Looking back on this year that has thrown so many obstacles in the path of the Rockets' road to the playoffs, I now see that none of those obstacles were negotiable without the helping hand of a changed man.

When he was first traded to Houston for the respectable price of two rookies and a draft pick, he was viewed by many to be Houston's version of the devastating triad. Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Artest were supposed to be a force to be reckoned with in the league for years to come.

If they could stay healthy.

Peculiarly, that was never Artest's problem. He was fit and healthy for the majority of the time—he just had trouble (to say it delicately) keeping his mouth shut. If the trash talking stopped, so too would his suspensions, and Houston could begin its season as a title contender.

When Houston went 3-0 at the start of the '08-'09 season, fans and critics alike knew something was special. Indeed I thought maybe this was the year to silence those who just wanted to rain on our parade.

But this so-called trio of All-Stars never clicked.

With no momentum and a season broken up into bursts and stops, with humbling losses to Minnesota and their counterparts among the league's peasantry, and with McGrady relegated to the bench until eventually announcing his season ending surgery, how could they?

Artest and Yao formulated whatever form of chemistry they could with McGrady hopping in and out of the starting lineup, as they led their team to another successful 50-plus win regular season campaign that was inevitably fuelled by passion and the duo's chemistry anyway.

Artest rediscovered his lethal three-point stroke, and his reputation as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league was never compromised, en route to consistently posting 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game.

With that in mind, why do many still judge his season at Houston as a failure?

Subconsciously these ignorant and unforgiving "critics" constantly resort back to a brawl that Artest openly admitted responsibility for, and that began because of a hot-headed Ben Wallace.

A controversial statement if there ever was one.

Ron Artest will never be forgiven, understandable. But please do not let this forever haze your perception of what is a fundamentally talented basketball player.

He has a reputation problem that he pinned on himself because of immature and sometimes disgraceful jarring of his opponents.

But there is always one, and although the Malice at the Palace may have potentially saved the league, Artest's days are numbered, before he is finally accepted as an athlete and not a thug, and when he is thanked for a great year at Houston.


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