Ron Artest Interview
Ron Artest, Jr. (born November 13, 1979) is an professional basketball player who is currently with the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA. Artest gained a reputation as one of the league's premier defenders as he won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2004. He was also criticized for assaulting a fan in the Pacers–Pistons brawl and is known for his sometimes eccentric, outspoken behavior.
Artest was born and raised in the Queensbridge projects in Queens, New York. Artest has 2 younger brothers, Isaiah and Daniel. He played high school basketball at La Salle Academy and college basketball at St. John's University from 1997–1999 majoring in mathematics. In 1999 he helped the Red Storm to the Elite Eight, losing to Ohio State in a classic game. He gained fame playing in some of New York City's high profile summer basketball tournaments at Nike Pro City, Hoops in the Sun at Orchard Beach, Bronx, New York and Dyckman Park at Washington Heights, earning himself nicknames such as Tru Warier and The New World Order, a name he received from Randy Cruz (one of the co-founders of the Hoops In The Sun basketball league at Orchard Beach in the Bronx, New York).
As a teenager, he was teamed with Elton Brand of the Philadelphia 76ers and Lamar Odom of the Los Angeles Lakers on the same AAU team.
Growing up in a rough neighborhood Artest claims he witnessed murder on a basketball court. "It was so competitive, they broke a leg from a table and they threw it, it went right through his heart and he died right on the court. So I'm accustomed to playing basketball really rough."
Artest was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the 16th pick of the 1999 NBA Draft.
Artest played a total of 175 games for the Bulls over 2-1/2 years, the bulk as a starter, during which time he averaged about 12.5 points and just over 4 rebounds per game. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team in the 1999–2000.
Midway through the 2001-02 season, Ron was traded by Chicago to the Indiana Pacers along with Ron Mercer, Brad Miller, and Kevin Ollie, in exchange for Jalen Rose, Travis Best, Norman Richardson, and a 2nd Round draft pick.
Following his trade to the Pacers, Ron Artest had the best season of his professional career. In 2003–04 season he averaged 18.3 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game, and 3.7 assists per game. Ron made the 2004 All-Star Game as a reserve and was named the Defensive Player of the Year. Artest wore three jersey numbers for the Pacers: 15, 23 and 91.
On November 19, 2004, Artest was at the center of an altercation among players and fans during a game in Auburn Hills, Michigan between Artest's Pacers and the home team Detroit Pistons.
The brawl began when Artest fouled Pistons center Ben Wallace as Wallace was putting up a shot. Wallace, upset at being fouled hard when the game was effectively over (the Pacers led 97–82), responded by shoving Artest, leading to an altercation near the scorer's table. Artest walked to the sideline and lay down on the scorer's table. Reacting to Wallace throwing something at Artest, Pistons fan John Green threw a cup of beer at Artest, hitting him. Artest jumped into the front-row seats and confronted a man he incorrectly believed to be responsible which in turn erupted into a brawl between Pistons fans and several of the Pacers. Artest returned to the basketball court, and punched Pistons fan A.J. Shackleford, who was apparently taunting Artest verbally. This fight resulted in the game being stopped with less than a minute remaining. Artest teammates Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson were suspended indefinitely the day after the game, along with Wallace.
On November 21, the NBA announced that Artest would be suspended for the remainder of the season (73 games and playoff), the longest non-drug or betting related suspension in NBA history. Eight other players (four Pacers and four Pistons) received suspensions, without pay, which ranged from one to thirty games in length. Each of the Pacers players involved were levied fines and ordered to do community service. Several fans were also charged and were banned from attending any events at the Palace for life. Artest lost approximately $7 million in salary due to the suspension.
Aftermath and trade
Early in the 2005–06 season, Artest requested a trade from the Indiana Pacers and was put on the team's inactive roster. Artest's call for a trade created a rift between him and his teammates. "We felt betrayed, a little disrespected," teammate Jermaine O'Neal said. As for their basketball relationship, O'Neal said: "The business relationship is over. That's fact." Pacers president Larry Bird said he also felt "betrayed" and "disappointed."
On January 24, 2006, reports from NBA sources confirmed that the Sacramento Kings had agreed to trade Peja Stojakovi? to the Pacers for Artest. However, before the trade could be completed, many press outlets reported that Artest had informed team management that he did not want to go to Sacramento. According to Artest's agent, his original trade request was only made because he was upset when he heard rumors that the Pacers were going to trade him to Sacramento for Stojakovi? early in the season. While not denying his agent's story, Artest did deny that he had rejected the trade to Sacramento, saying that he would play anywhere; hence, contradicting earlier press accounts stating Artest was holding up the trade. Given conflicting accounts, it is unclear why the trade was delayed, but it was nevertheless completed on January 25 and Artest was officially sent to the Kings for Stojakovi?.
Though traded midseason to the Kings franchise, Artest quickly found his place on the team by providing some much needed defense. Though many feared his abrasive personality would be a problem, he worked well with his teammates and then-coach Rick Adelman. Artest wore #93 for his jersey number with the Kings. After acquiring Artest in late January 2006, the team immediately went on a 14–5 run, the team's best run of the season. The Kings broke .500 and landed the eighth spot in the Western Conference. This prompted ESPN to declare that "Ron Artest has breathed new life in the Sacramento Kings and enhanced their chances of reaching the playoffs for the ninth straight year." Fox Sports proclaimed, "Artest has Kings back in playoff hunt."
He was suspended for Game 2 of the team's first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs following a flagrant foul (elbow to the head) on Manu Ginóbili. The Kings eventually were eliminated from the playoffs in six games.
After the playoffs, Artest offered to donate his entire salary to keep teammate Bonzi Wells with the team, who became a free agent after the 2005–06 NBA season. He even jokingly threatened to kill Wells if he did not re-sign with the Kings. Wells was later picked up by the Houston Rockets and then traded to the New Orleans Hornets for former Sacramento Kings player Bobby Jackson. Artest also offered to donate his salary to retain the services of head coach Rick Adelman, whose contract expired after the same season. Adelman and the Kings did not agree on a contract extension so the two parted ways.
On July 29, 2008, it was reported that Artest was to be traded to the Houston Rockets along with Patrick Ewing, Jr. and Sean Singletary for Bobby Jackson, recently drafted forward Donté Greene, a 2009 first-round draft pick, and cash considerations. The deal was made official on August 14, due to Greene's rookie contract signing on July 14. In response to the trade, Yao Ming was generally positive, but jokingly said that "hopefully he's not fighting anymore and going after a guy in the stands." In response, Artest said, "This is Tracy (McGrady) and Yao's team, you know. I'm not going to take it personal. I understand what Yao said, but I'm still ghetto. That's not going to change. I'm never going to change my culture. Yao has played with a lot of black players, but I don't think he's ever played with a black player that really represents his culture as much as I represent my culture."
Since then, Artest and Yao have exchanged extensive phone calls. Artest has also said, "Whatever Adelman needs me to do, whether that's come off the bench, sixth, seventh man, start, I don't even care. Whatever he needs me to do, I'm 100 percent sure it's going to work out."
On October 30, 2008, Artest received his first technical as a Houston Rocket, as he raced towards a group of Mavericks players and then quickly went to Yao Ming who bumped Josh Howard after play stopped. Artest was trying to pull Yao Ming away from the play and to the foul line, but contact was made with Maverick players. The TNT broadcast crew felt this technical was not warranted, and was based upon Artest's prior reputation as a feisty player in the league.
On April 30, 2009, Ron Artest helped the Houston Rockets advance past the first round for the first time in 11 seasons.
Los Angeles Lakers
In July 2009, the Los Angeles Lakers signed Ron Artest to a five-year deal worth about $33 million. Artest chose the number 37 jersey, which he said was in honor of Michael Jackson. Jackson's Thriller album was at No. 1 on the charts for 37 straight weeks.
On May 6, 2009, Ron Artest was ejected in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers after Kobe Bryant committed what was later ruled to be a Flagrant 1 foul, for elbowing. Artest was indignant after having Kobe's forearm jabbed into his throat but finding himself called for the offensive foul. He then proceeded to antagonize Bryant after the play, which eventually led to an ejection by Joey Crawford. The TNT broadcast crew felt this technical was not warranted, and was possibly due to Crawford confusing Artest's protestations that he was elbowed in the throat with a throat slashing motion, which is an automatic ejection.
On May 8, 2009, Artest was again ejected from Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth quarter after a hard foul on Pau Gasol, who was attempting to dunk on a fast-break. Commentators and even Kobe Bryant, who had had an altercation with Artest in Game 2 in which Artest was ejected, agreed the flagrant two foul and subsequent ejection were not warranted. True enough, it was determined the next day that the foul was not serious enough to warrant an ejection, and the flagrant two was downgraded.
* June 30, 1999: Drafted 16th overall by Chicago Bulls in 1999 NBA Draft.
* February 19, 2002: Traded by Chicago along with Ron Mercer, Brad Miller and Kevin Ollie to the Indiana Pacers for Jalen Rose, Travis Best, Norman Richardson and a future second-round draft pick.
* January 25, 2006: Traded by Indiana to the Sacramento Kings for Peja Stojakovi?.
* August 21, 2008: Traded by Sacramento along with Patrick Ewing, Jr. and Sean Singletary to the Houston Rockets for Bobby Jackson, Donté Greene and a future first-round draft pick.
Artest has been a subject of frequent controversy. In a December 2009 Sporting News interview, Artest admitted that he had led a "wild" lifestyle as a young player, and that he drank Hennessy cognac in the locker room at halftime when he was playing for the Chicago Bulls at the beginning of his NBA career. During his rookie season in Chicago, he was criticized for applying for a job at Circuit City in order to get an employee discount. He once attended a practice with the Indiana Pacers in a bath robe. He was suspended for two games in the early 2004–05 season by Pacers coach Rick Carlisle after he allegedly asked for a month off because he was tired from promoting an R&B album for the group Allure on his production label. Artest had also been suspended for three games in 2003 for destroying a television camera at Madison Square Garden, and for four games for a confrontation with Miami Heat coach Pat Riley in 2003. He has also been suspended several times for flagrant fouls. Artest was also involved in the infamous Pacers-Pistons brawl in 2004.
According to a Placer County report obtained by the Sacramento Bee, on January 30, 2007, Animal Services officers issued a "pre-seizure" notice to Artest, on the suspicion that a dog at his home in Loomis was not getting adequate food. On February 5, officers returned and seized Socks, a black female Great Dane, removing her into protective custody with a local veterinarian. The seizure cited a law that requires animal caretakers to "provide proper sustenance". Artest later sent an email to the Bee, writing "I'm glad to say all problems are solved now, and I'm looking forward to getting my dog back." In March 2007, his dog was released under a foster care agreement after being treated for more than a month. In April 2007, the Placer County District Attorney's Office announced that it would not file charges against Artest for the incident. It also was reported by Placer County Animal Services and by Artest that he agreed to allow Socks to be adopted by a new owner.
On March 5, 2007, Artest was arrested for domestic abuse, and excused from Sacramento Kings indefinitely by GM Geoff Petrie. On March 10, Kings announced that Artest would return to the team, while his case was being reviewed by the Placer County District Attorney. On May 3, he was sentenced to 20 days in jail and community service. Artest spent only 10 days in the jail, as the judge stayed 10 days of the sentence, and served the remainder in a work release program. On July 14, 2007, the NBA suspended Artest for seven games at the beginning of the 2007–08 NBA season for his legal problems.
Artest is currently endorsed by Chinese athletics brand Peak.
In 2008, Artest appeared in a video promoting companion animal spaying and neutering for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals entitled "Have the balls to spay or neuter your dog."
In April 2010, it was announced that Artest would help develop and produce his own reality show, They Call Me Crazy, in conjunction with E1 Entertainment and Tijuana Entertainment.
HT: Yo, Queensbridge in the house Ron!
RA: Yo, no doubt.
HT: I’ve been following your career since your St. Johns days man.
RA: Oh, ok.
HT: I remember when you took the Red Storm all the way to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tourney in ’99.
RA: Where you from in New York?
HT: Manhattan, but I worked on Roosevelt Island right next to your hood.
RA: My father lives over there.
HT: Queensbridge was no joke, man.
RA: I grew up in the projects there for 19 years until I went to College.
HT: I know you came up with Lamar Odom back in the days in New York. Who else were the top players you came up with?
RA: Me and Lamar are the exact same age. The top guys were me, Lamar, Elton Brand, Eric Barkley, and a couple of other guys but they didn’t make it though.
HT: You have a chance of becoming the most successful player to come out of St. Johns when it’s all said and done. That’ll be something considering guys like Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson, and Jayson Williams came before you.
RA: I have a good chance, man. We had a lot of good players come out of there.
HT: Are you surprised some of old teammates like Eric Barkley and Lavor Postell never made it in the league?
RA: Eric got into some difficulties but he’s back home trying to work himself back in. Lavor played in the NBA for 3 or 4 seasons, and Marcus Hatten played a year in the league and is doing really well in Europe now.
HT: Felipe Lopez was supposed to be the next Michael Jordan. He got the Sports Illustrated cover and everything! He was better than Iverson going into college.
RA: Yeah, Felipe had that bad knee injury though, and he never really recovered from that. I played with him for one year when I was a freshman he was a senior.
HT: I’m sure you were recruited by every school but did you go to St. Johns because you wanted to stay home?
RA: Well, I knew I wanted to go to the NBA in a couple of years so I thought I may as well stay home.
HT: What are the colleges recruited you?
RA: I was recruited by any everybody but the top five schools. Like Duke didn’t recruit me, and Kentucky didn’t, but it turned out alright.
HT: How about the local schools like Seton Hall?
RA: Seton Hall recruited me.
HT: You’re starting a full season at Sacramento now. It’s amazing how everything worked out for you because you’re a great fit for the Kings.
RA: Definitely. Sacramento is the best NBA city in whole league.
HT: With your game you’re a good fit for any team but there were all kinds of rumors that the Pacers were going to send you to send you to some losing Franchise. I guess you have get back quality when you’re giving away quality.
RA: Yeah, I got very lucky because I got to come to a team with a Mike Bibby and Brad Miller. Most people in my situation don’t get to come to a situation like this.
HT: You were traded for Kings’ fan favorite Peja Stojakovic in mid-season and he’s not even at Indiana anymore. Do you think your bosses, the Maloof brothers, should be given more credit for pulling that trigger on that situation?
RA: I think they’re gonna’ get credit now.
HT: Sacramento had just parted ways with C-Webb and Vlade, and beginning to struggle a little bit, but you guys are looking like legitimate contenders once again.
RA: Definitely. Geoff Petrie made a couple of moves and turned the whole program around. We have an All-Star caliber squad now.
HT: When you took time away from the Pacers last season you campaigned to be join the Lakers. In retrospect, do you think you could’ve co-existed with one Mr. Bryant that doesn’t like to give up the rock?
RA: First and foremost I’m happy to be here, but if I had gone to L.A. I could’ve played with anybody.
HT: I’ve always been a Laker hater but come to think of it, you would’ve brought defensive intensity to the squad and provided Kobe with all the shots he needed.
RA: Yeah definitely, man. He wanted me to play with me, and I always wanted to play with him too.
HT: And you would’ve been reunited with Lamar Odom from your streetball days.
RA: Yo, Lamar’s going to be a hell of a player in this league.
HT: But he still has to be a disappointment considering how he played in Miami, and of course who he was traded for.
RA: No, Lamar was on winning team last year, and he went to the playoffs. And he’s always filing up the stat sheets so he’s doing well there.
HT: Everyone’s waiting for him to emerge as the next Scotty Pippen to Kobe’s MJ, but if Lamar played like he did in Miami in 2004 then maybe they’ll get what they expected.
RA: Yeah, he did play real good that year. Lamar’s a tough player!
HT: You were originally traded to the Clippers last season until the deal fell through. Realistically, would that have been a much better fit for you in L.A.?
RA: What happened was Corey Maggette got hurt and he failed the physical, and Donny Walsh didn’t want to pursue the trade after he found out that Corey had a bad foot.
HT: But the Clippers were a top team all year, and they took the Suns to Game 7 in the Playoffs. If you were there who knows how far they could’ve gone?
RA: The Clippers did a really good job last year, but they’re going to be even better this year.
HT: Well, the Kings had an unbelievable second half when you joined the team too, and you guys took 2 games off of the Spurs. But did you think about how far much further the Clippers might’ve gone if you were there?
RA: I guess. Because every team that I go on is going to be a better team just because of the way I play. If you lost the game I can probably give you a better chance to win, but at the end of the day it’s the team that wins the game.
HT: How did you like playing with the Clippers’ Elton Brand when you guys broke in with the Chicago Bulls?
RA: Elton’s one of my friends. He was always there for me and I was always there for him. He’s a great All-Star, and definitely one of the best power forwards in the league.
HT: The Bulls have a really nice young team now. Do you have any regrets that things didn’t work out in Chicago?
RA: I don’t regret it at all because I love Sacramento, but Chicago is a great city, you know.
HT: And you had some great years in Indiana too. Let’s face it.
HT: You established yourself as an All-Star and a franchise caliber player at Indiana.
RA: Those were some good years.
HT: Yo, what the fuck were the Knicks thinking passing up on you for a stiff at the 1999 NBA Draft?! You were a steal at the 15th pick!
RA: All the New Yorkers wanted me to play for the Knicks, but they passed me by, which was kind of disappointing.
HT: You would’ve already been a steal at 15th, but they picked Frederic Weis from France, who never even suited up for the Knicks, and the Bulls took you at 16th.
RA: I never heard about Frederic Weis again but hopefully his family’s doing well. I can’t wait to see him play one day.
HT: He played for France in the FIBA World Championships this summer.
RA: How did he do?
HT: So so. He’s just a 7’ 2” center, you know. France had a decent squad with Boris Diaw and Ronny Turiaf, but Tony parker was out with an injury so they lost in the quarters to Greece. Greece beat Team USA for third place. But you’re one the top players in the NBA now. Great players get drafted low for some reason all the time but the Knicks should’ve known better considering you had just lead your ‘Johnnies’ to the Elite Eight!
RA: You’re right about that.
HT: Do you regret the way you handled your departure from Indiana?
RA: Yeah, it was a bad situation because Indiana had to take care of their business by trading me, but some things you just can’t publicly. I kinda went about it the wrong way.
HT: Seems like they were going to make the move anyway.
RA: They probably were anyway because of the type of player I am, and the problems I caused in Indiana after the incident in Detroit.
HT: You made a statement that you don’t always play at a 100% if the team doesn’t treat me like you and pay you like an All-Star.
RA: I feel like I should be treated like all the best players in the league. In the past I’ve given less than 100% when a team wasn’t treating well, but in Sacramento they treat me like a good person over here so I’m going to give a 100% and play hard. I was trying to say that I’d be off going to another team that appreciated my caliber of play in that statement.
HT: I think you are definitely underpaid considering what you bring to the table.
RA: And I wanted a team to appreciate me to be Ron Artest on the basketball court. And that’s what Sacramento did.
HT: I think you have the goods to be the NBA MVP in the near future. No doubt especially if you have an impact on both ends of the floor.
RA: When I’m playing straight and on the top of my game, definitely!
HT: When you returned to the Pacers from your one year suspension last year you demanded to be a more focal point of the offense. Have you made such demands in Sacramento?
RA: No, I’m not worried about that in Sacramento cause I’m just thinking about winning now. I’ll do whatever I have to do for the team, and I’m sure coach will put the ball in my hand too.
HT: You’ve always been able to score but you concentrated more on your defense in Chicago in order to become a more valuable player right?
RA: Yeah, I definitely did that. I thought it was important to establish myself as a good player that way and I knew I could worry about offense later, which is kind of what I’m working on right now. I was doing the same thing at St. Johns, I was playing good defense. I wasn’t averaging as many points because we had a lot of good scorers, you know.
HT: The brawl at Auburn Hills in 2004 was very unfortunate situation. I didn’t think you were totally at fault for the melee that ensued, but your teammates definitely had your back that night didn’t they?
RA: They definitely did. You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. Those guys were stand up guys and I wish I could’ve stayed there at Indiana, but in a situation like that you can make your decisions with your emotions. You have to do what’s best for your personal self. I thought it was best for me to leave for everyone.
HT: Again, that brawl was a very frightening thing for everyone. You lost millions, and everyone there suffered at some level. You definitely got carried away in the heat of the moment but if you ask me the crowd has to stay off the court or the field no matter what. We see it happening in baseball where players get a hand in their face or beer thrown at them when they’re fielding the ball. This whole idea of the crowd being the sixth man has to be addressed too.
RA: Yeah, things definitely got out of hand. I think the guy that tried to get me was a bit on the racist side. He was treating me like an animal which wasn’t fair.
HT: You went after the wrong guy at first but the guy that got you in the first place was sucker punching you and everything. And apparently he had a bad wrap sheet too.
RA: He’d been arrested and he was a racist.
HT: The Pacers made a good run at the playoffs without you, but you must have felt guilty for your teammates because you guys could’ve gone all the way.
RA: I did feel bad because you don’t get too many chances at a championship, and we had such a great team. I kind of let myself down.
HT: It was Reggie’s last shot a ring too. The way you guys were playing you would’ve been tough to beat in the playoffs.
RA: We were rolling that year. We had a great record but unfortunately situations happen.
HT: Nobody could see anything like that coming.
RA: I definitely didn’t see anything like that happening.
HT: How are you going to handle your situation in the future because you know some fools going to try to throw something or say something to piss you off?
RA: Well, I’m always going to protect myself.
HT: Sebastian Telfair was recently questioned for a shooting in New York, and Stephen Jackson was arrested for firing his gun outside a strip club in Indianapolis this off season. Do you pack heat?
RA: I don’t live that kind of lifestyle so I don’t need no guns.
HT: I must say, we never hear any problems with you off the court.
HT: Have you made a decision to tone down your antics on the court? If you even get involved in a minor incident that escalate into anything the NBA are going to heavily fine you and suspend you again.
RA: I’m going to continue playing my game the same way.
HT: Again, none of us know what’s around the corner, and I know that for the most part you just play hard, but if you’re involved in another incident the NBA may even try to kick you of the league to make an example out of you.
HT: The media and the TV analysts and broadcasters often refer to you as a crazy guy. Does that piss you off when people label you like that?
RA: When you get bad mouthed that pisses me off, but that’s why I do things for the community and charity groups to give people a chance to get to know me. It’s important that people don’t think of me for that one event that happened. My album is another good opportunity for people to get to know me from the inside out.
HT: Your record label is called Tru Warier. What does that mean?
RA: People in New York used to call me Tru Warier, and when I was looking for a name for my label I thought it sounded good. It’s a name for someone striving to reach his goals. Hopefully it’ll be in the dictionary one day.
HT: Who do you consider to be the best defensive players in the NBA?
RA: Outside of myself, I’d say Bruce Bowen, Trenton Hassell, Lindsay Hunter, Ben Wallace, and I like Brian Skinner too. And I got to say Shaquile O’Neal cause Shaq’s a big guy.
HT: You and Ben Wallace are usually on the top of the list. Do you consider yourself to be the best defender in the league?
RA: I think so, but individual defense is not as important as the team defense so I’m trying to get away from talking about my individual defense.
HT: It sounds like you’re grateful to have been given a second chance?
RA: Definitely. I want to do whatever it takes for us to go all the way and win the championship.
HT: You are very fortunate to be in a franchise that is committed to winning, because you’ve experienced being part of a rebuilding post Jordan Bulls team, and Indiana could’ve traded you to one of the bottom dwellers in the league.
RA: There was a chance of that. That’s why I’m more committed now, and we want to see what we could do here. We got a great team!
HT: Were you were always an exceptional defender?
RA: I was playing defense since I was a little kid, you know. It was something I always loved to do. I just always played intense and hard. It came easy to me.
HT: I remember hearing from one of the NBA analysts about 6 years ago that MJ said that you were on your to becoming one of the defensive players in the NBA.
RA: Yeah, that was my first or second year when MJ said that after a couple of workouts with him. He gave me a lot of pub by saying that and word got out that I could play some defense. I got to thank Michael Jordan for that.
HT: Didn’t you break his ribs too?
RA: Yeah, I was playing so hard and I hit him with an accidental elbow. I just wish that it had never happened.
HT: Who’s the toughest guy to guard in the NBA?
RA: Probably Kobe Bryant.
RA: He could do everything. He could shoot, go right, go left, fade away going right, fade away going left, he can shoot the 3 ball, and he’s very athletic. That makes it hard to play against.
HT: Do you think some players in the NBA juice up with steroids?
RA: Nobody in the NBA uses steroids cause they test for steroids.
HT: Yeah, but the NBA test for marijuana too. Don’t tell me guys don’t smoke marijuana during the season.
RA: They test for all that.
HT: Some say that the NBA is the marijuana league.
RA: Yeah, they say that all the time but I don’t think that’s true as they make that out to be.
HT: You have a song called ‘Haters’ in your album where you even rap about how Matt Lauer treated you on the Today Show. Don’t you think some of the reaction you get from the haters is self-inflicted too? Or do you feel like you’re misunderstood?
RA: I think some people have misunderstood me and that’s understandable, but some people want to say something to put people down, those people are called haters.
HT: I know you really like Dennis Rodman, but his antics were disruptive to a team. You’re never late to practice, or miss flights, or go MIA on game night like he did.
RA: Yo, Rodman’s my man. I enjoyed how he played, and he did a lot of good for the NBA. He won 3 championships for Chicago, and the Bulls made a killing from him and MJ in those championship days.
HT: But do you look up to Rodman for his game, or the whole package with his marketing of his antics and shocking behavior?
RA: I look up to him for his game. I love his basketball mind.
HT: Did you hear about Zinedine Zidane head butting the Italian player in OT and being sent off at the World Cup Finals this summer?
RA: I heard about that. That wasn’t too smart.
HT: I would’ve thought that you of all people could understand him?
RA: Why did he do that?
HT: Because the Italian dude was allegedly calling him a terrorist and that his sister was a whore. I mean, Zidane was one of the greatest soccer players ever, and this other guy Matterazi is nothing in the big picture, but he got into his head at such a crucial moment.
RA: Oh, okay. Life is bigger than sports, and someone’s disrespecting you like that you can’t fault him for head butting him in the chest like that. He was standing up for the people he loved.
HT: Where do you draw the line as far as personal insults and not letting your teammates down?
RA: You have to realize that this is territory you built, but if you want to win you have to know how people are going to be out there bad mouthing you and stuff. You still have to stay in the game.
HT: The trash talking out there doesn’t get that personal does it?
RA: Some of the fans can get pretty nasty.
HT: Your album entitled My World is your first. How long have you been rapping?
RA: I’ve been doing it about 8 years, ever since I got into the league. I’m just striving to be really good you know what I’m sayin’.
HT: You got some great stuff in there. You probably don’t want people to see you as an “NBA player’s record” but someone that’s legit?
RA: I definitely want to be a legitimate rapper, and I think I have a good chance to be one. I love to perform in front of people, and I just love the pure artistry.
HT: When you opened for guys like Young Jeezy and fat Joe this summer it’s not good enough to get a “He’s good for a baller” response from that audience right?
RA: I’m definitely out there to prove them wrong. I’m not just somebody playing basketball just trying to rap on the beat. I’ve got some points to get across, and hopefully people will like it. In this album I wanted to be versatile and give people a chance to know and have some fun at the same time. I got some songs that are fiction, songs that are for the clubs, and songs that are fact. I wanted people to get an opportunity to see my creative mind, I tried not to have any song sound the same, and I tried to cover a variety of topics.
HT: You don’t glorify gangsterism, and you really don’t curse in any of the tracks.
RA: No, definitely not. That’s not what I’m about. I just try to be myself, you know. I have some heartfelt stuff in there about the hood. To me, being a thug and people that choose to go in that path, that was passed onto us from slavery, and that’s how we were raised. That was the culture and environment we were around. And us young fellas that’s all we knew, and we grow up as the product of our environment.
HT: Do you want the youngsters to hear what you got to say?
RA: Some of tracks I would like the youngsters to listen to, but my whole album is not for youngsters. I got some songs in there where young people could take some advice and better their lives because not everyone you grow up with tell you the difference between right and wrong.
HT: You never took sides on the East Coast West Coast rivalry right?
RA: No. I’m a neutral guy cause I’ve always loved music.
HT: There‘s even battles between the boroughs in New York.
RA: I love Queens because that’s where I’m from but I’m not the kind of person to battle other boroughs.
HT: Who are your style influences?
RA: I like Outkast a lot. I like Nelly, Slick Rick, Tupac, and of course Mobb Deep. I love Eminem’s first album.
HT: What about New York’s finest Jay-Z?
RA: I love Jay-Z but he’s just not one of my favorite rappers if I had to pick my favorites or whatever, you know. But he’s an icon. Jay-Z’s flawless.
HT: It sounds like you can deliver the goods with the mic but it’s definitely advantageous to be Ron Artest starting out in the rap game isn’t it?
RA: Yeah, I kind of got a jump start, and hopefully my next project will be highly anticipated.
HT: Did you fund the project by yourself?
RA: Me and an investor. He doesn’t like me to say his name but he was very interested in my project, and he helped me through the album.
HT: You put your own money where your mouth is.
RA: I had full confidence in my ability. I’ll bet on myself any day!
HT: What’s your ultimate goal in the music business?
RA: This is a marathon so I’m looking for longevity. I’m not banking on this first album to make me or break me, you know. I’m more ready to just start running this marathon.
HT: People are going to give you props for this first album for years to come because you said what you wanted to say and you put it out there.
RA: Definitely. And it’ll give me a chance to see what people like to hear from me creatively and I can give them more of that in the future.
HT: Some of these tracks dug a lot deeper than the typical NBA player album.
RA: I wanted to give people a little bit more insight into my life whether it was with a hood song, or a girly song, or a club song, or a political song.
HT: You’re married with four kids, and you hang with your crew, but you don’t live the crazy private life like Rodman’s do you.
RA: No, definitely not. I like to try to help the youth on how to act especially when you have a girlfriend or a wife you’ve had for a long time. I’ve got a song where I was a wild animal when I was younger, and then I have a track called ‘Bad Karma’ where I sing about a life of an entertainer who thinks he’s bigger than what he is and before you know it you lost the one you truly loved, and you’re lost in the world.
HT: Again, I know that you hang with your boys but we never hear about you behaving wildly or inappropriately off the court.
RA: When I hang out with my teammates not all of them are married, and some of them are single. We all go out sometimes but as far having a lot of women and stuff that’s not me.
HT: This album’s a nice start though. Isn’t kind of equivalent to your freshman year in college?
RA: Yeah, definitely. I’m a rookie-freshman, and people are just getting a chance to see my creativity and my art. It’s like when I started at St. Johns, I could shoot but can you play defense? It’s the same thing now.
HT: What other artists contributed in your album?
RA: I got Juvenile, Puff Daddy, and Mike Jones. They definitely gave me some credibility. I’m hoping I could work with people like Alicia Keyes, Keisha Coles, Outkast, and artists like that in the future.
HT: So this is just a head start to a career that you want to be pursuing long after your NBA career?
RA: No doubt. I love it, I enjoy it, and I think I can be successful at it.
HT: No matter how good a rapper you become it’s still a plus to have a whole lot of F-you money in your pocket already. You’ve said in the past that you’d retire after winning one championship; your game still hasn’t hit its peak so you could potentially play for a number of years and make a whole lot of cash.
RA: I take good care of my body so I think I could play for a couple more years.
HT: But you did say that you’d ride off into the sunset if you won before?
RA: If we won last year or a couple of years I probably would’ve quit, and that would’ve been the wrong move. So maybe God was showing me that I still loved the game a lot.
HT: What do you think of T.O.?
RA: I only met him once, but that’s my man so whatever he does I support him. He’s a real good guy.
HT: Well, he delivers the goods.
RA: He sure does.
HT: I know that you’ve always talked about winning the championships, but do you think about things like getting into the Hall of Fame, or making a run at MVP?
RA: I want to win first and then think about the other stuff after that. I definitely want to win. That’s much bigger than any individual goal.
HT: When you were at Indiana you guys were in the mix every year, but opportunities and years come and go before you know it.
RA: I’m already at 7 years so now it’s all about laying all on the table for me.