No disrespect to Ron Artest, but he’s the one guy in the entire league where anything can come out of his mouth and nobody would flinch (We think Bill Simmons calls this the “Mike Tyson zone”). After that ludicrous ejection last night, if he had explained that his defensive philosophy is primarily informed by the Power Rangers’ individualized talent in the larger scheme of a 5-person unit, we’d say, “You know, that explains a lot.”
But he didn’t go “children’s show,” of course; he went “murder“. Tucked disturbingly seamlessly into his post-game dissertation was a story about how he watched a basketball game get so competitive that a losing player broke the leg off a chair and stabbed an opponent in his heart, killing him. At that point, nobody really knew how to react; Witness Ernie Johnson’s bewilderment during the Inside The NBA segment where the clips were aired. But luckily, nobody called him a liar; According to the intrepid reporting at MOUTHPIECE SPORTS, that story is completely true.
The NEW YORK TIMES printed the grisly details in 1991:
A 19-year-old basketball player from Queens was fatally stabbed with a broken-off table leg today after a fight broke out during a basketball tournament, the police said.
“An argument ensued about the score,” Capt. Louis Curcione said, adding that one of the teams “thought they were getting gypped.”
“A fight broke out between the players and about 40 fans in the stands,” he said. “In the course of the fight, one person was stabbed in the back.”
[Lloyd] Newton was taken to the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Damn. All right, now we can really say that we’ve got some information on Ron-Ron’s background that totally tells us a lot about the way he plays ball. Like, we’re sure he knows good and goddarn well he shouldn’t have punched out those jokers up at Detroit … buuut, he didn’t even try to stab or otherwise seriously injure/kill anybody. There’s probably one part of his brain (and, let’s be clear, as there would be in yours or ours had we grown up witnessing the same thing), however small, that thinks he deserves a bit of credit for that.
And again, nobody thinks that watching a dude get stabbed to death when he was 12 years old gives Artest carte blanche to act out when he gets done wrong on the court; life and maturity really don’t work that way at all. But if Artest wanted to tell Kobe he’s lucky he’s playing with grownups, because that kind of business gets people hurt on the wrong court, he’s able to come from a sincere place in saying so. That’s kind of scary.
As near as we can tell, there’s no extra discipline coming anyone’s way, which is the best move for the NBA. You don’t want to try to tamp down real talk when it just stays talk; that’s exactly what David Stern’s extra discipline around fighting is supposed to accomplish. But considering Artest’s exhaustive inventory of Kobe’s dirty play during that same interview, we wonder if the league office will contact both teams and remind them that these teams probably don’t want to be throwing any gas cans at the bonfire, and maybe let’s all start playing by the rules a little more closely. And for god’s sakes, don’t stab anybody.