Ron Artest is promoting mental-health awareness.
There is no punch line.
No big finish, no rim shot, no laugh track. Just the starting small forward of the two-time defending champions visiting a middle school Thursday in the Los Angeles suburb of Montebello to call for passage of federal legislation and encourage students to reach out to a health-care worker if they need.
Artest is telling others to get help. Yeah, he knows. He knows he's asking for it. He knows every Internet comedian will jump on this with some crack, mostly behind the anonymity of a screen-name handle, of course. But he doesn't care because shining a light on an urgent topic is more important to him.
Here's how more important:
Artest finally won a title in June after 11 regular seasons of trying ... and now he's planning to sell the championship ring as a fundraiser to put more psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists in schools."You work so hard to get a ring, and now you have a chance to help more people than just yourself, instead of just satisfying yourself," he said. "What's better than that? For me, this is very important."Source: NBA.com"I'm older now, so I think it's about that time that I stop complaining about what people think about me, because it's more important than me, you know?" Artest said. "That whole thing (after the championship), I was thinking about it, in my brain I'm like, 'Am I really about to say this? On national TV?' But then the other part of me was like, 'It's bigger than you. It's bigger than you. It's more about people that really need to hear this.'
"For five years, I've been wanting to do this psychology-type of assistance, but I never had an outlet where I could make a big impact, as far as where the most people could see it. It was always like maybe 10 or 20 people seeing what we were doing. The idea came from when I was in Sacramento. I had marriage counseling. I also had anger management. It just made me think that counseling is not something generic. ...
"You can't just say, 'This guy needs help' and make it general or lose hope in that individual or just give them medicine and say, 'That will help the problem.' It takes a while to reach the problem. I've been through this first-hand. A lot of people made jokes about it on the Internet. It was kind of funny, though. A lot of people made jokes. 'Wow, Ron Artest is speaking on a mental-health act.' I'm like, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. At first, I was a little bit nervous when I first heard it. I was like, 'OK, here comes some backlash' and I was going to go hide and say I don't want to do it. But I'm like, 'Of course Ron Artest is doing it.' I've been through it first-hand. Who else better than Ron Artest to actually talk about his experiences and how therapy has helped him?"
Say what you want about his historic on court temper, or his sometimes eccentric ways (he considered working part time at an electronics store to get the staff discount...This while making MILLIONS) but the guy is 100% himself at all times. What you see is what you get, he isn't fake and even though people like to crack jokes about him it looks like deep down the tough guy has a big heart. It's a huge sacrifice to give away the thing your worked 11 years for and it's not about the worth of the ring, which I'm sure will draw a huge amount from some rich Lakers homer ("Here's Johnny!"?), but because of the symbolism behind the ring. I think the money donation and the awareness it will create about the issue is a great gesture from Artest. More stars should exploit their celebrity status to help worthy causes.