If you have every read any of our articles over the short history of the Kobe Beef, you may have noticed that we are rather critical about most every team we write about, even those of which we are passionate fans. We have been extremely critical of one team in particular this season. That team turned out to be the eventual NBA champions. Were we wrong about what we said? Maybe, but like Sir Charles, we doubt it. Outcomes just did not go as we projected at times. Honestly, the “paper tiger” label that we gave the Lakers still holds some weight with us because of the glaring deficiencies that exist on the team. Los Angeles is addressing some of these issues this summer as they are pursuing Luke Ridnour, Steve Blake, and Earl Watson to fill the role of backup point guard. (Derek Fisher’s contract is up this summer so maybe they are preparing for his potential retirement too.) The fact that they are in the market is only further confirmation of how poor the play off the bench has been all season. Sorry, Jordan Farmar (who now wants out of Los Angeles to start somewhere) and Shannon Brown, you are junk pieces. Nonetheless, they have the rings this season. If you were counting, that makes it ring number two for Adam Morrison which should clearly bring him into the all time great players conversation. Rings elevate the status and qualify the career of every player, right? Despite our obvious detraction from the Lake Show there are always two constants which draw favorable attention from us. The first of course is the pure joy it is to watch Kobe Bryant defy human imagination with the shots he makes and the will to win which he displays on the court. We certainly feel blessed to witness every performance that he puts on. He is the greatest player of the generation. The other is this season’s newest Laker.
Ron Artest has always been a favorite here at the Beef, and he has been this writer’s favorite player in the league since his early days on the Indiana Pacers. Now he finally has his ring and we could not be happier. (If it were not for the infamous brawl in the Palace at Auburn Hills he likely would have won a ring that season. That Pacers team was one of the best teams of the decade). Artest is easily the happiest person on the planet right now. After game seven, he went out to dinner with his family, still wearing his jersey from the game. Later that night he was singing his own song, Champion (pronounced champ-ee-own) at the club and on the radio. He hit the town all night, jersey still on. At the club he had a bottle of Grey Goose poured over him because champagne is just not good enough. So will he go to Disney World? Not a chance. When asked if he was he said he was going to Compton for a barbeque. This is Ron Artest. He has been everywhere since the championship was won. Artest has been on CNN collecting contributions to help clean up the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and he has also been on TMZ, in the week following the end of the finals he appeared on twenty different television programs. During the victory parade he led a “Boston sucks” chant. This man is living life to the fullest. If you live in Los Angeles, you need to follow him on Twitter. Every night, since game seven, he has been tweeting where he and other Lakers players will be partying. He is probably the most generous celebrity in L.A. right now.
Having spoken to various Lakers “fans” during the playoffs, many things are certain about them. They do not like Artest, generally have no knowledge of players not named Kobe, expect to win, and dramatically overrate every bench player. Hopefully they will now understand how much Artest’s contribution has meant to the Lakers. No player’s career has come as full circle as Artest’s. He has gone from defensive player of the year, to the NBA’s most hated, to hardnosed veteran with baggage, to NBA champion. He deserved his shot at glory and is a key reason that the Lakers were able to repeat. He might have not filled up the box score in many of the games this post season, but his impact was very tangible. Paul Pierce was a nonfactor in the finals. Artest basically won the series against Phoenix and he shut down Kevin Durant in the first round. It can be argued that Artest was the second most important player on the Lakers’ roster this postseason behind Bryant. Yes, Pau Gasol was the second leading scorer for the team throughout the playoffs but he did absolutely nothing to shed his soft label. Artest did the intangibles. He did exactly what he was brought in to do. He was a physical pest on defense.
From the Bulls to the Pacers to the Kings to the Rockets and now to the Lakers, Artest has worn six different numbers on his jersey (15, 23, 91, 93, 96, and 37) and many have said he has just as many personalities. Now he has just one personality: Champion. While other Lakers have their own way of celebrating: going to the Los Angeles based late night talk shows, or for Lamar Odom, going to Miami to be with his reality television wife, Ron Artest will continue to be seen with the public, very accessible, because these are his people. Queensbridge may be his home but he identifies with every person in every city he plays in. This is his extended family. However, the QB will always be his immediate family and he is having his own parade there on July 17th.
To this family in Los Angeles, he has extended the most generous of rewards: an NBA title. L.A. may be used to such accolades now but this one is different. Pundits and journalists are saying that the Lakers could have several more in their future but one look at the Western Conference and how good it is should cause much concern for the chances of a three-peat. That is the future, however. Right now, Ron Artest and the Lakers are champions. This off season we spell redemption R-O-N.
His new album, “World Wide Wariars” drops in August.