Los Angeles Lakers: Key to the city

Key party for Ron Artest in Vegas

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
7:37
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Okay, the actual story isn't nearly as titillating as the headline, but I just couldn't resist.

In reality, Ron Artest is at the center of a wholesome, dignified event in Las Vegas on the eve of Wednesday's preseason contest against the Sacramento Kings. The increasingly civic-minded forward will receive the key to the city in recognition of his recent work as a mental health advocate. Specifically, he's being honored for his work with Xcel University, a program he established to help community centers and schools identify high-risk students and provide incentives for a more positive lifestyle.

This effort comes on the heels of lobbying on behalf of improved mental health facilities in schools. As he explained to us in an ESPNLA.com On Air interview, Artest strongly believes treating issues at a young age is critical towards helping people with various mental health issues. Ron-Ron's persistent work in this area hasn't gone unnoticed, and appears to be gaining steam in making a mark.

Oh, and for those who love to celebrate holidays, Oct. 12 is now Ron Artest Day in Vegas! No word yet whether Sin City's government employees will have this day off in 2011, but if I had a vote, there would be no mail delivered in the 702 on R.A.D.

While clearly proud, Artest was almost sheepish as he explained how he became the man of the hour. "I was totally surprised. I've been doing a lot of charity things, and I think they kind of like it," he noted with a shrug. "Trying to just give back, and it's kind of catching on."

His first instinct upon being gifted the key was to attempt convincing the brain trusts instead honor Derek Fisher or Kobe Bryant, both dudes he felt more worthy of accolades. But these protests fell on deaf ears, and unlike his decision to auction off his championship ring for charity, Artest will in fact hang onto his latest piece of memorabilia.

"No, I don't think I'm gonna auction off that key," explained Artest. "I know I can win another ring, but I don't think I can get another key."

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