Artest NBA’s newest bad boy

Tom Finnegan

There is a long history of bad boys in the NBA. Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, Rasheed Wallace and Jayson Williams (the guy who was on the Nets) are a few names that come to mind. Fans love to hate these characters, yet amidst the fines, technical fouls and expletive-laced comments, these bad boys always seemed to play well. It seems that the public is ready to add another name to the list: Ron Artest. This year Artest has been in the middle of several incidents, but should he be lumped in the same category?

Artest has definitely made a name for himself this year, for both the good and the bad. He is the leader on an Indiana Pacer team that is 41-29 and vying for an Eastern Conference title. He is averaging 15 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steal a game. He is also regarded as one of the toughest defensive players in the league. Artest was the 16th overall pick in the 1999 draft, by the Chicago Bulls, out of St. John’s. He was on the NBA’s all rookie second team. However, all of these accolades have been overshadowed by some of his out bursts that took place this year.

Earlier in the year, Artest was fined and suspended three games for smashing a $35,000 television monitor after a loss to the New York Knicks. Artest was also suspended four games after getting into a verbal scuffle with Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, and flipping off Miami fans. After the suspensions were announced, the NBA stated that Artest was not being punished for the latter infraction because of the overwhelming amount of league members who went on record to say that they too wanted to flip off Miami fans.

Along with all of these suspensions and raised fingers, Artest has been racking up the flagrant fouls. He is the league leader with eight, after recently getting a flagrant foul call just five seconds into a game against Boston. The NBA policy is to suspend players’ two games for every flagrant foul over five, and lately Artest has been getting comfy on the bench.

However, the Pacers and Artest have been screaming foul, how ironic. They say that lately Artest has been targeted by refs because of his reputation only, but the Pacers think that Artest shouldn’t even have a reputation. Artest is a hard nosed, intense player who actually cares about the games that he is playing in. I wish that there were more players in the NBA who cared more about the game than how they looked while playing, and which Bentley they are going to drive to the game. Furthermore, Artest’s off -the-court behavior speaks on his behalf. He is never in the headlines for anything other than basketball. Artest also helps out in his community, and is the first person asked by the Pacers organization to help out with charity events. Artest never gets into it with other players, and he rarely yells at the refs.

To put Artest in the same category as a Rodman or a Wallace is unfair. Artest is simply a tough player who cares a little too much about the games that he is playing in. He is not an arrogant, cross dressing, foul mouth like some of the past bad boys in the NBA. Personally, I’d like to see more NBA players play with the passion that he Artest plays with; it might pick up the lacking interest of NBA fans.