As the season was starting, user PURPLE AND GOLD FOR LIFE put together a FanPost in which he compared Ron Artest to Kermit Washington. He put a lot of effort into it, and we felt like it deserved front page placement. However, the beginning of the season was very busy for us, so we decided to hold onto it, and promote it at a later date. That later date is here.
After the jump, PAGFL explains to us what he sees in Artest, why he sees a parallel with Kermit Washington, and what that means to him for this Lakers' season, and for Artest's tenure as a Laker.
This is one of first attempts to write an article type Fan-Post. I hope you guys read it and give me your thoughts and opinions. Thank you.
On December 9, 1977 a scuffle broke out during a game between the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers which involved Lakers’ forward Kermit Washington. As the players were being separated and Rudy Tomjanovich who was a Houston Rocket at the time ran towards Washington to play the role of peace-maker Washington turned around and saw him approaching and hit him with a solid punch to the face. Players describe that moment as “the loudest silence you have ever heard.” That incident changed the lives of the NBA and the players involved forever.
In terms of gruesomeness, “The Punch” felt by Rudy Tomjanovich and the repercussions and downward spiral that Kermit Washington’s career experienced, the Pacers-Pistons brawl, with Ron Artest in the center of it all, doesn’t even compare.
To put things into perspective, Tomjanovich’s face was fractured, his bone structure was detached completely from his skull and he was in serious danger of actually dying on the court that day. On the other hand, Kermit Washington was suspended for 60 days which forced him to miss 26 games and was the longest suspension handed down to an NBA player at the time. Once he retired, in Scarlet Letter type fashion, Kermit was exiled for 19 years from the NBA since no one in the NBA wanted to associate their organization’s name with his.
Although both incidents don’t compare on the level of severity, there are some similarities and some lessons to be learned as well as some questions that need to be asked. At this point, Kermit Washington’s story has reached its climax and the plot has been resolved but the same can’t be said for Artest and his story as well as his journey.
For Artest, the most intriguing questions involve trying to figure out what will it take or how much time must pass before his character and image are no longer measured based on that specific incident? Even more important is to find out who makes that decision?
Until that moment comes, it will be interesting to see the criticism that is thrown in his direction. Especially by those directly associated with the NBA. This year on NBA TV during a discussion about the Lakers, Brent Barry, a retired Spurs player, was asked about the Lakers signing Artest and his immediate response was, “Anger is one letter short of danger”. Although he did mention some positives regarding his game, his main focus was on Artest’s personality.
These hopeful predictions of the Lakers’ demise are all over the sports world. Earlier this month Sports Illustrated published an article in which it polled NBA Scouts asking them for their predictions as far as who was going to win the title. One scout, who picked the Spurs to win it all, stated, “There will be a drop there for the Lakers…Artest is going to screw their stuff up. Putting him in a major media market was not a great idea.” Again, an analysis that sounded more as if he was hoping for this to happen rather than to actually give a basketball related statement.
Realistically, no Laker fan can ever expect an ex Spurs player or a scout who picked the Spurs to win the title to pick the Lakers as favorites for anything. But again, the most important question is, how long will it be before Artest is measured based on his game on the floor instead of having references to his personality and character?
It is impossible to predict the length of time that it will take before Artest and that famous brawl co-exist in the public’s eyes. Anytime the topic of Artest comes up there is either a video clip or photo shown of the brawl. Considering how often it is shown and talked about, it is hard to believe that the whole incident occurred almost 6 years ago (November 19, 2004). Not only is it shown to predict Artest’s future actions but it has also defined his career, personality and the way that he is viewed.
That can also be attributed to the fact that there has been a change from the way that the NBA is now covered. Fans have gone from being entertained by fiction to non-fiction. We are now in the Reality TV era. No longer does entertainment involve creative writing. In a more voyeuristic way, fans are now more intrigued by being shown and told about someone’s personal life, especially when that includes witnessing someone’s demise.
A perfect example of that change is Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame speech. There was a time when Michael became MJ and no one would ever consider writing something negative about him. That is no longer true. Many were surprised that he received all that criticism about his speech only to find out that Jordan’s personality has always been that way but the media never bothered to introduce the world to that side of him. But even his Airness is no longer off limits.
It is also important to mention that in no way should Artest or Washington be excused for their actions. Regardless of how their stories are covered or how many times each of their incidents is mentioned, they both had choices to make and made them.
Tomjanovich has already made a choice and forgiven Washington and it took longer for others to do so. But, Tomjanovich said it best when he said, “I have to wish the best for him. I don’t like to see people suffer. He made a mistake and everyone deserves another chance.” The only issue is that it took the rest of the NBA 19 years to give him that chance.
It is also possible that Artest doesn’t even care whether he gets a second chance. He said as much when a Lakers’ fan wrote to him pleading him to not sabotage the Lakers upcoming season and went as far as to say (speaking for all Lakers fans), “we’re scared of you” and Artest’s response, “By the way. The guy who wrote the letter emailed me. I cursed him out and he apologized. See, I don’t kiss (butt)…See, I don’t care if someone likes or hates me. I love my fam and fans!” But, that could also be that alpha male, “Tru-Warrior” persona of his talking.
In terms of a second chance, it certainly isn’t the media, fans or anyone else that will decide that. A major part of that responsibility falls on him. He needs to make the right decisions in his professional and personal life and it seems that he is well on his way and heading in the right direction.
A good sign of his attempt to make the right choices and that he is going in the right direction is his current admition to seeing a sports psychologist. To some his decision may seem comical but it isn’t. This is something that he is taking very serious which can be seen in his response when asked about it, “A couple years ago, I was a bad teammate,” he then added, “I’m trying to find the right answer, the logical answer, so my ego’s not taking over and is not bigger than the team.” This just might seem as just another gimmick or a public relations move but deep down inside he just might care.
If he really does care and dedicates himself to winning he will receive the same admiration that Laker fans are known for. Ironically, the whole Artest signing is all too familiar. Especially with the experiences of hearing about a certain Laker player being judged based on his character and past mistakes. Laker fans have heard the negative comments and criticism and yet stood by him. After an 81 point performance, numerous other highlights, buzzer beaters and most of all 4 Championship banners no longer is he measured by what he did in his personal life but what he does on the court. Which makes it clear that the solution to Artest redeeming himself is to win a championship so that he is referred to as winner and as a positive contributor. The only hope that Laker fans have is that Artest does that as a Laker so that his journey has the same fairy tale ending.
I know that most men are not fans of cheesy fairy tales, romantic films or stories where the hero marries the woman of his dreams at the end of the story. But most are fans of any story that involves an underdog and, based on his past mistakes and his effort to erase that image, Artest fits that mold. But, in Artest’s story the woman of his dreams is in the shape of the Larry O’Brien trophy and he is the one that will be wearing the ring at the end.