“I'm raised to take nothing from nobody,” Artest says.
There are 47 seconds left in a game that Indiana is winning by 15, and the urge to fight Wallace is overwhelming. But Artest follows the advice of his psychologist.
“Go to a different place and relax.”
So Artest climbs atop the scorer's table.
“I was just trying to calm down,” he says.
While he's lying there he gets hit with the tossed drink and looks up to see a fan raising his fist. Artest doesn't realize the guy has bet Green $50 he can't hit Artest and he's just lost his bet.
He's about to lose his life if Artest unleashes his full fury.
Artest runs to him, trampling one of Indiana's broadcasters, who will suffer five fractured vertebrae.
Artest does not hit the fan, but shakes him, wanting to know if he threw the cup. When Artest returns to the court, two fans follow. Artest feels threatened. He throws a punch that is so effective it drops them both.
The game is called, and Artest being Artest in the locker room later asks a teammate, “Do you think we're going to get in trouble?”
He gets the last laugh.
He's fine now with Detroit, so much so he's now telling another Detroit story.
“I come here and I'm on a bad stretch so I ask the hotel concierge to get me a basketball. It's snowing and I'm in my shorts. We find a neighborhood so I can try and find my street game again.
”But the guy who drives me there notices a white car watching me so he calls the police. They arrive, find guys with guns and arrest them. I don't know what they had in mind, but I found my game.“
Artest, though, can't avoid the NBA, taking the brunt of punishment for going into the stands. He's suspended for the rest of the 2004-05 season, certifying his reputation as a thug who might go wacko any time.
”Even as a kid I had anger issues,“ he says. ”It's not normal to walk around on edge all day, but that's how I lived.“
He's close to his parents growing up, but hears them argue until it escalates into divorce. He says he's filled with anger and depression.
He hears the same thing now in emails from troubled parents and kids. He always tells them the same thing: ”The family household is everything.“
He talks about helping kids a lot and has the resume to demonstrate it's more than talk. UCLA has already honored him for advancing the cause of mental health.
He's fortunate early on, he says, because his mother sends him to counseling while not allowing him to be medicated. And he still never has, although he acknowledges that's the answer for some.
”I was 13 when I met with a counselor. There were like 12 kids in a group and they all had problems,“ he says. ”I just loved the group activities.“
Easy to understand now why he enjoys playing for the Lakers.
He says he remains a work in progress, refusing to be called a role model. ”I'm more of an example of what can happen,“ he says with insight.
”It's a great time in my life,“ he says. ”I know now I can play with passion and not go over the edge. When I first came to L.A., I couldn't play with passion because when I got too high I couldn't control it.“
The conversation over, so much time wasted in ignoring him before now, I remind him to have a good game against the Pistons and to behave.
I can't help myself.
Distributed by MCT Information Services