I wanted to share my feature for ESPNLA.com about Ron Artest and the changes made in his life. The transformation of Ron's image never ceases to amaze me, and it's testament to the power of soul searching.
We talked for a while about what caused the mistakes in his past: Ego. Bad lifestyle choices. Selfishness. Immaturity. A desire to cling to his roots at all costs. Admitting the need for help and sticking with therapy has changed Artest's life, which is why he's become so involved with the mental health industry. Having lived through the struggle, he knows firsthand the importance of creating avenues for assistance, especially for young people. There is also perspective from Lamar Odom, Chuck Person, Danny Granger and David Stern.
Artest still views himself as an incomplete project, a man in "transition." The direction at the moment, however, couldn't be better.
Below is an excerpt:
"Just being able to see every situation clearly," says Artest of the benefits of therapy. "I'm not as quick to judge somebody. I'm not always as quick to say I'm right about something. I criticize myself a lot or just look at things from all angles. If something's going wrong or something I can't deal with, I'm trying to figure out a way where I can deal with it relaxed."
"The most stable person in the world needs someone to talk to," Odom says. "It's really happens a lot more than what people think, probably, as far as someone needing someone to talk to. It's very normal. The everyday person sometimes is not willing to admit it. It was good that he got some help. We all need to know what makes us tick."
That doesn't necessarily make going public any easier.
"I talked about it three years ago," Artest says. "I told people I was going through therapy and some people was like, 'What?' I was weird. It caught people off-guard. But I kinda knew, like, I knew people were gonna call me crazy, but I kind of thought that if I tell people about this, it can have an impact on certain people."
Last season, when he admitted to drinking Hennessy at halftime during his days as a Chicago Bull, most people treated it like another outrageous tale from Ron-Ron and missed his intention, which was to bring his mistake to light.
"I was very upset about that," Artest says. But he kept talking, thanking his therapist during the postgame news conference after the Lakers won the title, and appearing alongside Rep. Grace Napolitano to advocate for H.R. 2531, a measure to "provide access to school-based comprehensive mental health programs."
The more he speaks out for those without a voice, the more people can put a face to their own issues. The solidarity works in reverse, too. The more Artest talks about his own issues, the less self-conscious he becomes about having them.
In his own words, it makes him feel "normal."
"Because I'm not the only one," Artest explains. "The same way I don't want that kid [helped through his advocacy] to feel lonely, I know I'm not lonely in this problem. [Before] I felt like I was the only one going through what I was going through, but I'm not. It's like all those groups, those movements, and they feel like they're not alone. Whether it's race, or whether it's gender, or whether it's sexuality, everybody doesn't want to feel alone, you know?"