In what seems to have been one of the wisest moves of the 2009 offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers signed perennial craziest guy in sports candidate Ron Artest, and now the captain of crazy has raffled off his championship ring.
Rather than throwing money at the young, up-and-coming Trevor Ariza, the Lakers filled a much-needed defensive hole with a former defensive player of the year—and head case.
People called this move ridiculous. There's no way signing a crazy guy to fill in for a budding All-Star would help the team win another title, but it did.
Ron Artest was one of the most important pieces in the Lakers' playoff run last season, playing stellar defense and hitting one of the most clutch threes in the Finals. He was one of the best players in Game 7, as Kobe Bryant was busy shooting 6-of-24.
Bryant may have gotten the team there, but Artest won that final game for them with his cool head (if you would have gone back to tell me the day after the Malice at the Palace that Artest would end up being described as cool-headed in anything, I'd smack you) and bothersome defense.
After the game, he made YouTube history with an interview in which he thanked "everyone in my hood" and "my psychiatrist."
Yep, makes sense.
From that point on, I completely understood how the Artest turnaround worked. There were far fewer moments in 2009 that made me think, "Yeah, I can see that this guy beat up some dude that he thought threw a beer at him." He looked more balanced and levelheaded.
After the finals, Ron Artest made a promise that he would raffle off his championship ring in order to raise awareness and funds to help young people with mental health issues.
Well, Artest made good on that promise yesterday, as the ring was finally raffled off after much publicity and coverage. What I am really curious of is if the Lakers had people going around in the stands selling tickets like the PTA moms selling 50/50 tickets at a high school football game.
It was revealed that Artest raised over $500,000 for the Xcel University charity, one that provides at-risk youth with help for mental health issues.
If that wasn't enough, Artest said that he plans on donating a huge portion of his $6.79 million salary next season to mental health charities.
He has been a critic of black drug dealers exploiting their own people to make a little bit of money while supporting drug kingpins in other countries and is donating his time and money to help with inner city problems.
As surprising as it sounds, Artest is one of the most admirable players in the NBA in the past few seasons, and I think it all has to be accredited to his psychiatrist and his own willingness to seek help and work to overcome his problems.
It is the most stunning turnaround I have ever seen in sports. One moment he looked like he could have gone off and choked the life out of some referee on live TV, and the next he seems like a harmless and fun basketball player.
For that, I have to thank all the people in Ron's hood, and his therapist.