"I got Wheaties!" were the first words out of Lakers forward Ron Artest's mouth as he entered the post-game conference for Game Seven. After a momentous and hilarious interview, Artest announced he was heading to a club to celebrate.
His actions after the big win in Game Seven bring some fans to believe he has not changed since the infamous Pacers-Pistons brawl in November of 2004. Artest was suspended for the remainder of the season (for his part in the brawl), and lost a reported $5 million in revenue that season.
Artest was not the only player involved in this incident.
Boston's Rasheed Wallace was also involved. Wallace was playing for the Pistons in 2004 when the brawl occurred, and watched teammate Ben Wallace help start and participate in the mayhem.
This was not Artest's first immature act. Breaking monitors at Madison Square Garden and asking for time off to record and promote rap albums are also in the lineup.
How about his missing the flight during an important game in the Eastern Conference Finals?
Multiple Lakers fans—myself included—sneered when the news came down about the Ariza/Artest trade agreement at the beginning of the season. When I was asked about it, my response was simple:
"You can't just throw on the uniform and be called a Laker! You have to earn the right to be called a Laker!"
Most Lakers fans were inclined to agree with me.
A Lakers fan and close friend of mine recently brought up Artest's antics last year during the semifinals of the Western Conference Playoffs. Artest, on several occasions, threw what appeared to be temper tantrums during the series.
The famous incident where he got in Kobe's face after he stated Kobe had elbowed him in the throat. It was later determined Artest was hit in the upper chest and not in the throat.
This incident still comes to Lakers fans lips when discussing the master of NBA anarchy.
So, what has changed about Artest since joining the Lakers?
Artest has recently apologized to his former Pacers teammates for his previous actions. He has placed the blame squarely on himself and states he feels ashamed whenever he is around any of them.
He has thanked his psychiatrist for helping him stay mentally strong during the Finals series. However, the tough guy attitude remained in his arsenal and it showed only seconds into Game One against Boston.
Has Ron Artest matured since the incident in Detroit?
I will say he has proved to most Lakers fans—myself included—that he has earned the right to be called a Laker. As for his maturity level: I will say he has made progress in this last year.
I would not expect to see the "in your face" and "I will drop you like a fly" attitude Artest shows on the court to disappear anytime soon. Still, I have to give great praise to Ron for delivering when L.A. needed it most.