Want To Talk With Ron Artest? Pick Up The Phone

Whether you love it or hate it, 2009 is going to go down in history as the year social media busted out into the mainstream. It’s taken everyone by storm, but for pro athletes especially it’s a way to “keep it real” with fans in real time while still keeping them at a safe distance. Shaq may have started the craze, but it’s been people like Stephon Marbury and Ron Artest that have taken social media to new extremes.

Ron Artest iPhone China

And while Starbury has used it mostly to show the world how insane he is, Artest has embraced the opportunity to show his less-punchy side to the world. Just last week he was setting the story straight regarding his role in The Brawl, but he was only getting warmed up. Not content to interact with his fans a mere 140 characters at a time, Artest spent his latest video blogs talking directly to his fans, via telephone, from China, after he Tweeted out his actual cellphone number. Your move, Shaq.

(Video and more after the jump.)

Thankfully for all mankind, Artest has done a great job chronicling his downtime while on his whirlwind tour of China. Of course there’s an ulterior motive - Shin Shin! - but that doesn’t mean it’s any less cool. Here’s Artest giving out his number and talking with his adoring public halfway around the world, via FANHOUSE:

Artest wasn’t done there. His next video features him still gabbing away while in the middle of an early-morning workout:

You’ve gotta admire his devotion to the fans, but his PR efforts aren’t limited to his fans back home in the US. Perhaps mindful of the untapped endorsement opportunities that China has to offer, Artest gave a $45,000 watch to a poor Chinese high school student to finance his education. Crazy or not, that’s a pretty sweet move on Ron Ron’s part. Then again, maybe he’s just trying to outdo Shaq in something other than social media, like giant Chinese statues.