Ron Artest: From Demon To Redeemed

Jabber HeadSenior Analyst IJune 21, 2010

Demons have mystical powers; that comes with being a demon.

Two years ago, one of Kobe Bryant's demons strolled into the Lakers' sullen Game 6 post-blow-out-title-loss locker room. The demon caught up with Kobe literally as Kobe was exiting the shower.

After briefly surveying the disappointment and embarrassment on Kobe's face, the demon said something completely out of character. He told Kobe not to fret, for he would see to it that Kobe & the Lakers would never experience such a title loss again. Since the demon was the playing for the Sacramento Kings at the time, I'm sure that Kobe was bewildered.

The demon then attempted to get traded to the Lakers, but no deal could be worked out. Instead he was traded to the Houston Rockets in the summer of 2008. There he would cross paths with Kobe againβ€”usually in elbow-throwing, pushing, shoving and trash-talking scenarios.

The demon's premonition came to initial fruition when the Lakers defeated the Orlando magic for the 2008-2009 title. But it had nothing to do with the demon.

But in the summer of 2009, both Trevor Ariza of the Lakers and the demon became free agents. The Lakers chose not to meet Ariza's salary demands, but they did meet the demon's modest demands and signed him as a Laker. Since Ariza had signed with Houston, the Rockets and Lakers, in essence, swapped players.

Pundits and fans across the land poo-poo'd the deal and immediately declared that the destruction of the Lakers was imminent, as surely the demon would disrupt their chemistry and couldn't possibly breathe air in the same locker room, much less on the same court, as Kobe.

The demon struggled offensively all season...most players do in their first exposure to Phil Jackson's mysterious and complicated Triangle offense. But the demon was brought in primarily as a defense forceβ€”one who could minimize the need for Kobe to bang with, chase around, and wear down defending opposing teams' best wing players.

But still, the experts declared the demon-Ariza swap a disaster, despite the Lakers grabbing the No. 1 seed in the West.

The demon still struggled offensively in the playoffs, but he won the clincher against the Suns with a hustle-grabbed offensive rebound and immediate off-kilter winning put back.

Then came the Finals against the Boston Celtics. "Everyone" knew if the Lakers were to win, it would due to Kobe, Pau and perhaps Derek Fisher. And that's the way it rolled through the ups and downs of the first 6 games.

Then came Game 7.

"Of course" Kobe would channel his inner MJ, score about 45 and the Lakers would win. But instead, Kobe played one of the worst games of his career. "I sucked" were his post-game words.

It was not that Kobe played poorly by normal player standards, leading scoring with 23 points, shagging 15 rebounds and playing stellar individual & team-help defense. But by Kobe's, fans, and media standards, he sucked.

Kobe confessed to "running on E" in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals. Imagine what he'd have been running on if the demon hadn't taken the brunt for him during the season and playoffs.

The Lakers were in trouble, down by 13 in the 3rd quarter. The greatest closer in basketball couldn't hit the Pacific Ocean with a cruise missile.

But up rose the demon, aka Ronald William Artest, Jr., aka Ron-Ron, aka bad-tempered, loose cannon goofball.

Ron-Ron played stellar defense on Paul Pierce all game, but his "savior" act came on the offensive end. He scored 20 points, with the biggest shot a three (on which I cringed when he launched it), with 1:01 left in the game that effectively held off the Celtics' comeback surge.

He immediately blew kisses to the crowd and mouthed "I love you". And perhaps for the first time since the 2004 "Malice at the Palace" in Auburn Hills, MI, fans (at least Lakers fans) mouthed back, "We love you too, Ron".

Artest's play redeemed his status in the fans eye. So much for the demon.


Reg DeVone is co-owner/admin: Sports Jabber.

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