Need I really explain why we were excited about this particular guest?
Last weekend, the colorful small forward was kind enough to pay ESPNLA.com On Air a visit. Some of the conversation touched on serious issues, like his efforts to raise awareness of mental health issues, from the need for affordable, readily available counseling to the removal of stigma. Some of the conversation wasn't terribly serious at all, like Artest's fresh inspiration to become a jock strap entrepreneur. (We may be at least partially responsible for the nickname he's using this week.) But it was always interesting, typically the case whenever Artest shares his thoughts. Here are some of the topics covered over nearly 20 minutes:
- Ron may be quite the force on Twitter (@RONARTESTCOM, among other handles), but is respectful enough to recognize the true champion, particularly when the title holder happens to be a blood relative. Artest's brother Daniel (@D_Artest_QB) is crowned the more dominant Tweeter.
- Artest is lending support to legislation put forth by Rep. Grace Napolitano (D- Montebello) providing increased funding for mental health services in schools. As someone who has dealt with the habit of swallowing emotions until they explode, Artest knows firsthand the damage made possible from a lack of communication. Without learning to properly channel these feelings when you're young, the foundation is laid for issues to fester as an adult.
"That's been my problem the last couple of years, since I was a kid," conceded Artest. "I bottled it all up and sometimes it comes out the wrong way."
- By opening up about the help he's personally received, Artest is unquestionably going out on a limb. That said, his only apprehension was the possibility of parents misinterpreting his efforts as a call to medicate children. As he notes, that's a whole different can of worms, and well outside his expertise. But in terms of how he might be perceived for admitting help sought, Artest doesn't really care anymore about what people think.
"I felt kind of bad, I felt kind of stupid," explained Artest about first hearing the inevitable snickers. "But then I say, it's not about me. It's about the kids that I was trying to reach out to. That's what was most important. I'll just use myself and all the backlash and laughs, I worry about that later."
- As a means of raising funds for this cause, Artest plans to auction, or perhaps raffle, off his championship ring. After declaring he'll never put it on, he found a good reason to make at least a little contact with the hardware. "I think if I touch it, it'll add more value." Or he'll just have Kim Kardashian touch it. Whatever drives up the price. I asked Ron if he's worried about seller's remorse down the road. Not really, but he also didn't see many alternatives:
"I was thinking about auctioning off my jockstraps, but I don't think that would have gotten as much [money]."
Personally, I think he's underestimating the cash fans will pony up to get any item associated with their favorite athlete. But all joking aside, I actually hope Ron reconsiders and puts something else of value up for auction. His heart is clearly in the right place, but this is a pretty special piece of bling. Then again, as Artest notes, this approach leaves him motivated to get another ring- one he'll actually keep- and we all saw how well the incentive worked out last year.
- Despite being told by fans 24/7 how incredible his legendary Game 7 presser was, he's never actually watched it. For that matter, Artest barely remembers being on the dais to begin with. He allowed T-Pain to provide his excuse.
- Artest's transformation from arguably sports' biggest villain to among the more beloved athletes in L.A. has been nothing short of remarkable. Back in the day, Ron-Ron used to be all about self-promotion, with the emphasis on "self." But while hardly shying from the spotlight these days, Artest doesn't want to capitalize on his new found goodwill in a purely "me, me, me" way.
"Earlier in my career, I just wanted to be an entertainer," noted Artest. "So this would have been something I would have took advantage to benefit me. But now I'm doing something where it's to benefit others, and it's kinda cool, but I'm still having fun."
- If you wanna watch the new #15 get his lift on, Muscle Beach is as good a place as any to take a stab at finding him.
- The Evil Super Team may get the most attention these days, but Artest still sees Boston as the Lakers' biggest challenger out east. "Boston, they just look so intimidating on paper right now," exclaimed Artest. "I almost feel bad for any little old lady who talks across that Boston team. They'll be real frightened."
There was also respect accorded to the Thunder and, specifically, Kevin Durant. "Ron Artest has his work cut out for him this year, boy," chuckled the defensive specialist.