He wouldn't cop to it Monday morning talking with Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley on 710 ESPN -- I suspect he was under orders not to let the cat out of the bag -- but by Monday evening it was official: Ron Artest will be part of this season's cast of Dancing With the Stars. While I'm sure there are fans rolling their eyes at yet another venture for Artest, as Mark Medina of the LAT reports, Artest says he'll donate his earnings from the show (not an insignificant amount) to cancer research in honor of his daughter, who battled kidney tumors as a small child. Certainly hard to argue with that sort of motivation.
A few more thoughts:
Laugh if you want about the idea of him appearing on the show, but at least there could be practical benefits. Dancing involves a ton of footwork, and is all about being light on your feet. Watch this and this and tell me a little of that wouldn't do Ron some good.
His presence still isn't going to be enough for me to watch the show. I have no interest in sitting through Nancy Grace doing the samba just to watch Ron dance. This is why the TV gods invented highlight clips.
Ron committed to something that, should he keep advancing, will continue into the first month of the 2011-12 season (last year's finale was in late November). ABC wanted him despite what I can only assume is some sort of out clause should his real job come calling. DTWS is a huge part of the ABC fall schedule, and if they didn't believe there's good shot of Artest seeing the whole season through I wonder if they'd want him participating at all. Not that I was optimistic before, but in regards to an on-time start for the season, this is another canary in the lockout coal mine. A top-hatted, spats-wearing, rumba-loving canary.
One more serious point...
In a vacuum, it's easy to be entertained by each individual aspect of Artest's public life, and the rumors constantly swirling around him. He's Tweeting! He's doing a comedy tour! He's making music! He's playing in Finland! In England! He's on TV! He's changing his name! His heart is in the right place, witnessed by all the money he's raised and given away, and will apparently do again by participating in the show. The work Artest has done rehabilitating his image is remarkable, and while I occasionally question his direction, I don't question his sincerity. He clearly enjoys attention, but also seems to genuinely love engaging people, has made positive changes in his life, and has a message he wants to convey.
But should his performance on the court suffer, it's very possible the goodwill Artest has built up among Lakers fans will evaporate. The same hyper-public, often quirky lifestyle he's honed in the social media age is endearing when things are going well, but far less so when they're not.
Ron Artest had a very rough season for the Lakers last year. Should Metta World Peace fail to rebound, he's not going to be a such a popular guy. But given Artest's appeal as a personality, it's very possible both could do well on DWTS.