By David J. Cohen

Thought-provoking. Insightful. Those are the kind of words that come to mind when I think of the great Chinese philosopher Confucius (551 BC - 479 BC). Those are the same words I now associate with the "nuggets of wisdom" Ron Artest has bestowed among us all through the years. It just took some time to find them. With these in my possession I travel to a place no soul should ever go. I venture into the mind of Ron Artest.

I was browsing the web when I came across an article about the Kings. In it was Ron Artest's synopsis of the Kings' struggles a week after he arrived in Sacramento. It might be the most interesting analogy by an NBA player in the league's history:

"It's like when you smoke cigarettes, you've got to take that nicotine patch and break that habit. We've got a habit of losing right now. We need to get, like, a nicotine winning patch."

Now that we're all done laughing, I will try to explain this...well, I can't. What normal human being could? What exactly is a nicotine winning patch? Why do you need nicotine to win? I play basketball at the local gym all the time and it doesn't seem as if smokers are the best players. But the Kings have suddenly made it to 8th in the Western Conference, so I guess they found the patch. It's a shame this patch didn't exist ten years ago. If it did perhaps Shawn Kemp would have saved his career...oh wait, he was doing something else, oh well.

However, this is just one of many quotes Ron Artest has provided us that lets us into his train of thought (and leaves us gasping for air). When the news first broke out about Artest wanting out of Indiana, the Denver Nuggets were a frontrunner to take him. When Artest was asked about going to Denver, this was his response: "It has nice scenery." I didn't know Artest had an artistic sense. I also didn't know Denver plays its games outdoors on the Rocky Mountains. Upon further research I discovered this was one of Ron's suppressed personalities. Another team reportedly interested in Artest at the time was the Knicks. When asked about playing in New York, here's what Artest had to say: "Brooklyn is the gutter; I wouldn't mind playing in Brooklyn." So much for Denver's eye-candy. From beautiful mountain tops to the smell of urine in an inner-city elevator, Artest has quite different and specific tastes. To each his own.

Artest provided another gut-buster shortly after this incident when he met with NBA Commissioner David Stern. Artest was asked to comment on Stern after the meeting. His answer was priceless: "I know him. He's a cool cat. I think he's from the 'hood." Just picture an image of Stern trying to hold down the Bronx in some Nikes, a G-Unit sweater and a du rag while holding a .45 caliber. Dave Chappelle, you now have the skit to top Wayne Brady. And now we know the true reason for the NBA dress code. With so many inactive players "dressing like thugs" in the past, Stern couldn't find his posse and handle his business. It's good to see that problem was finally taken care of.

Now we digress to what really created this entire fiasco: the fight. The night Artest went into the stands and Bill Walton actually said something meaningful: "This is a disgrace." Obviously Artest had plenty of time to express himself during his record suspension and he made the best of this opportunity. Here was Artest's plan of action: "...[Making] a record company and putting out my own CD. There's clothes and shoes. There's also an upcoming book deal that I'm trying to do. I'm trying to be positive. I'm a big fan of the Nobel Peace Prize." WHAT! I understand the CD (remember, he previously worked his music so hard that he needed a break) and I can see where he's going with the clothes and shoes. Also, it's obvious Artest should write a book because it would be absurd. If Jennifer Wilbanks could do it, why can't Artest! Then there's the Nobel Peace Prize. This defies any sense of logic. Apparently Artest thinks he is on par with the world's best scientists, authors, inventors, humanitarians and the like. Maybe it's me Ron, but I just don't see the resemblance.

With all of this free time Artest did manage to produce a rap CD of himself spitting rhymes. This "stanza" of lyrics is from Artest (or his rap name, Tru Warier) from his album:

"Yo, I'm Ron Artest and I aint no Kobe,
My game's on higher level, like Obi Wan Kenobi.
No wait, I aint no white dude in a robey..."

Wow, I'm really impressed. There are nursery rhymes harder than this. So this is what happens when you have too much free time on your hands. Also during this time, Artest worked on his basketball skills and managed to change his shot in a way never done before. In an interview prior to the start of this season, Artest was asked about the improvement of his game and said the following: "My J is a bit more wet when I shoot it." I'm not even going to bother figuring out what that means.

However, there is one quote that makes Artest a hero to me despite all the chaos he has created in the NBA. Shortly after "The Terrell Owens Story: Philadelphia" ended with Owens being benched for the rest of the season, Artest called into a sports-bloggers podcast. Naturally the talk show hosts, seeing the similarities between the Owens and Artest situations, asked Artest about his feelings toward the T.O. series of events. I will always like Ron Artest because of his answer to the topic everyone in America heard about constantly at work, on ESPN, at the bar, and anywhere else that isn't Amish: "Why? What happened?" If only ESPN could have displayed the intellectual strength of Artest and had blocked out everything about T.O. Then the world would be a better place. Who knows, maybe there would be peace in the Middle East.

So there you have it. The thoughts and quotes of one confused, troubled young man. His words were surprisingly thought-provoking and insightful - just like Confucius. Confucius had a saying that I think perfectly captures the essential question - whether Artest is worth the trouble: "Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without." Only time will tell if Artest's behavior is indeed his insurmountable fatal flaw or if he becomes a diamond in the rough for the Kings. But it's looking good right now. I don't know what's more absurd - Ron Artest or the Kings making the playoffs.


Tue 03/14/06, 8:44 pm EST


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