Thursday at practice, I asked Ron Artest if he considers himself a "big game, big moment" player. Inconsistent as he's been offensively as a Laker in the big picture, Artest has nonetheless piled up a fair number of big shots, including a three Wednesday night effectively salting away Game 2 for the Lakers.
His answer was unexpected:
Pros constantly talk about treating every shot the same, but most are lying when they say they can and do. Thanks to his unique hardwiring, when Artest says for him it's the "same shot... the same exact possession" whether it comes in the fourth quarter, first quarter, or in the park, I believe him.
Artest's comments also reminded me of one the great unifying principles of sports. As a successful high school athlete but nothing more, I can't identify with the money guys make at the professional level, the sheer enormity of their talent, or the attention and pressure they face performing on such a massive stage. But while the scale was different, the state playoffs in football and baseball were as important to me as the Super Bowl and World Series.
Those games we played as kids and the shots we took in them, whether in organized games or backyard competition, mattered as much at the time as anything could. The results, good or bad, stick. (For pros, too, who will often call losses in their amateur days their most painful.) We can all identify with the desire to win, and the idea at one point, some shot or at bat meant as much to us as one from Game 7.
We may not have been there, but we've been there.