Rippin' on Ronnie
Okay, picture this. You’ve been labeled a head case by everyone in this universe except may be your mother and that really nice lady from The Facts of Life. Each time you set foot on a basketball court, every opponent is gunning for you—pushing you on every trip up to floor in hopes that you’ll snap. Every day this happens without skipping a beat. A push in the back here, a violent smack across the wrist there, it seemingly never ends. So you smash some television equipment, get in a few verbal altercations, say some crazy things, but honestly who wouldn’t? You’re only human, right? Everyone makes mistakes.
Then one night, you get to the arena and someone shrunk your jersey, you’re all out of Gold Bond, and Jim Gray won’t stop hounding you for an interview. On top of it, you’re matched up with your toughest opponent—a team that had just won the NBA Championship after beating you in the Eastern Conference Finals to get there. But it’s okay, because you know that you and your teammates are prepared to come out and make a statement that night—and boy did you. Midway through the fourth, your squad is up double digits and cruising along, just minutes away from snatching a huge ‘W’ on your foe’s home floor. Then all of a sudden you foul their big man pretty hard. He gets pissed, decides he’s had enough of you, and comes after you throwing a two-handed mess of a swing at your head. So what do you do? Swing back? Nope. You know what would happen if you did. Instead, you act as the bigger man and go to the scorer’s table to avoid lengthening your laundry list of problems. But for some reason instead of just sitting there, you decide to lie down as if this were kindergarten naptime. One fan in particular doesn’t appreciate this show of arrogance and decides, “Dammit, I don’t even like Bud Light,” and hucks a full brew onto your chest. STOP. Honestly, what would you do right now? I have asked myself this question about a thousand times and still cannot say for sure that I wouldn’t have made the same decision as Ron Artest. This being the case, I really had no choice but to give the Pacer forward another chance. I assumed that Indiana felt the same way.
After this melee occurred, let us not forget that Larry Bird (and Donnie Walsh) could have easily dealt Artest to give the team another weapon in their quest for the NBA crown. But instead, they recognized that receiving 50 cents on the dollar for their star forward wasn’t worth it. So they kept Ronnie around, landed a stud Euro point guard this offseason, and came away with perhaps the steal of the Draft in Danny Granger. Nothing like turning a potential disaster into a Championship contender, huh? But the key behind all of this, was Bird’s loyalty to Artest. He even went as far as posing with #23 on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s NBA Preview edition, clearly showing the world that he had Ronnie’s back. Larry paved the way for Artest to return to the court, be able to concentrate on basketball, and hopefully put all this mess behind him. I don’t know about you, but if somebody did that for me I’d make sure to pay him back in full.
Clearly, Ron Artest isn’t like you or I, and certainly not like Larry Bird. He has no sense of loyalty to his teammates, coaches, management, friends, or family. A year ago I felt bad for Artest. I thought he had some mental/emotional problems that he needed to deal with and that eventually he’d show us that he’s not that bad after all. But here we are just two and a half months into a new season and we’ve quickly discovered that Artest belongs in the same category of ignorance as Terrell Owens. Neither player cares about the game, his teammates, or his fans as much as he cares for himself. The news today is that he’d like to rejoin the Pacers and is regretful for requesting a trade in the first place. But if my senses are correct, I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that Bird and Walsh will ever allow Artest to wear an Indiana uniform ever again. Sure, everyone makes mistakes, but eventually you reach a point when no one has your back anymore. That time has finally come for Ron Artest.