7.03.2009

Playing With House Pancakes



You want to know why I didn't flinch when Shaqobronix, or whatever it's called, came to pass? Why I was lukewarm on the Celtics, and to this day think my premonition was right? It's because this is what a real meeting of the minds should feel like.

Let's stop momentarily and honor Trevor Ariza, who will have a bright career elsewhere, starting with Houston, where he will either make okay to like Shane Battier, displace him the way we thought James White might do Bowen, or both. I know how important he was to that championship run. But that's in the past. They got the ring; these things are filled with singularities, contingencies, and rarely start-to-finish mandates. He was part of one crazy summer, and now instead, Ron Artest will be a Laker.

What makes Artest such a magical beast is that he's exactly the opposite of a championship. That place in history was a flux that ends in certainty. Artest is forever bold statements and stands, all adding up to bouquet of question marks. He can do nothing to surprise is, partly due to our numbness, but also because of how damn earnest he is about everything. It's a testament to Ron Ron that he can fall back on the force of his spoken and implicit convictions, no matter how ever-shifting and contradictory they may be. Artest will always have, for lack of a better word, his realness. Not his authenticity—he's not the only athlete from the projects who's seen shit—but the ability to make us watch not out of horror or honor, but from a place of love.

Like it or not, there is something admirable about Artest. Otherwise, he'd be a garden-variety sociopath. He's no longer a symbol of instability or risk, but of the enduring quality that could redeem such a blood-blender of a career: the fact that, at the time, he sure did mean it.



You might also say he's the opposite of Kobe Bryant, who by the least charitable reading, is the form of conviction without any of its substance. That would of course be totally wrong and unfair (though I expect to hear it echoed in the comments section), and yet it gets at something of Kobe's, well, dullness. Artest is complicated in the literal sense, of things fucking each other up and getting in each other's way. Kobe's complicated like a watch or schematic, and it's only us on the outside who don't see the internal logic. Ron Artest is inconvenienced by logic, Kobe redeemed by it. That's partly why you never hear "why doesn't Ron Artest win a championship?" It just doesn't seem right to bring him into the world of criteria. He has one of those careers that, when it's over, we'll all know whether it left a mark or not.

That's why it's so perfectly glib, and hilarious, that he's being attached to a team looking for a second championship. I caught some criticism for suggesting that, even if the Shaq-jection was successful, LeBron would only have one ring. I know that city and franchise can't like that, and noted as much, but James needs to be thinking dynasty. It's in his nature, the scope of what he does in the sport. Kobe, on the other hand, needed that single Shaq-less ring. Right, there's the three-peat, and the dynasty he got to help author. This last one, though, was all about the technicality. Ironic as all get-out, then, that this kind of thinking barely enters Artest's mind, or those who would judge him. Sometimes you wonder if he even thinks in terms of seasons, or even final scores. Each nanosecond is a war.

Ron Artest doesn't need a ring. Kobe doesn't anymore, either. There's zero pathos or desperation to this, not even with Lamar Odom presumably back on board (more on that in a second). I'm not saying the Lakers won't have desire, just that there won't be pressure beyond the pressure to play basketball. LA is great at disappearing; I think that having no weight on their shoulders will make for less, not more, of that. Artest, paradoxical as this may sound, will also only heighten this new outlook.

To close out this journey to the heavens and back again, the reason I am bouncing off the walls tonight is because of the Artest/Odom reunion. I know people have a problem with Knicks exceptionalism, and maybe even New York exceptionalism. But fuck it: I am sick of Mark Jackson having a monopoly on the New York Basketball brand. How long has it been since we heard any other announcer describe a player as NY, except in passing? Do not so quickly forget what our Attorney General said at his Senate confirmation hearings! Not bullshit street ball, these two; they're the stuff lore is made of. Artest is all grit and aggression, Odom beauty and otherworldliness. Sometimes I don't know who between them has more anguish in their game; they probably share a sack. However, as much as it will sicken some to hear this, seeing the two of them on one team is, in a sense, a triumph for whatever it is that city means to the sport.

It may be Los Angeles hanging a banner in a year, but if you want to talk style and stories, you couldn't make a team more New York if you wanted to. Just from these two.

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16 Comments:

At 7/03/2009 2:07 AM, Blogger Andy said...

Goddam awesome.

Also, these Lakers are really, really, really going to test my hatred of all things purple and gold.

Let me float this hypothetical: Could Allen Ringless Iverson sublimate his ego and join this team for a pittance for a year, get a ring, and then get one last payday? Or is that too beautiful a dream?

 
At 7/03/2009 3:22 AM, Blogger Alexander J said...

Ron is so fucking crazy, he probably just sits outside Lamar's house blasting The Byrd's "Sweetheart of the Rodeo": you ain't goin' nowhere!

I wonder what random as fuck number he will wear, if he'll make fun of DJ Mbenga's 'Taco'gate moment or if this means a full offseason of small forward musical chairs...

 
At 7/03/2009 12:02 PM, Blogger Ben said...

one point: If anything, the Lakers have actually received more pressure to defend their crown. Now, they actually got a more versatile player in Artest as oppose to Ariza. Since they have made an upgrade, it would disappointing to see them do worse this year.

I thought you could've mentioned Phil, though. A lot of this team's future success will not depend as much on Ron's impact, as it does on the Zen Master's. If the "head coach" will be actually fulfill the entirety of his job description, the Lakers shoulb be fine. Phil managed to coach the egos of Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman - all at the same time - en route to several titles. But if Rambis is co-coaching, we have yet to see Kurt's style. We don't know if he, or anybody else in the league, is capable of monitoring Kobe, Gasol, Odom, and Artest, let alone just Artest. Although, he is a defense-oriented coach, which may appeal to Ron Ron.

 
At 7/03/2009 12:31 PM, Blogger flyE said...

This deal certainly makes the "Buy 2 get 1 free" FreeDarko prints offer that much more attractive for us Laker fans. Let's see... I'll take Kobe, Lamar, and Ron. Very convenient.

 
At 7/03/2009 1:23 PM, Blogger Andrew Weatherhead said...

But at the same, don't you feel like Kobe and Ron are weird kindred spirits? I.E., Kobe is so concerned with coming off somewhat normal when we all know he's batshit crazy, and Ron is obsessed with repping the streets and QB and all that, when, he kinda just feels like a kooky outlier of all that 'hood culture' ...like if he weren't Ron Artest, he'd just be that weird kid on the corner drinking snapple, hyping his mixtape, and picking fights with whole crowds of people. It's as if Kobe and Ron both wanted to be accepted by certain demographics/aesthetics/populations, when they're both kinda just huge dorks, and I mean that in a non-negative way. That said and as you mentioned, Ron's probably way more complicated than the preceding.

 
At 7/03/2009 4:04 PM, Blogger RC said...

Well, I'm not going to lie, this latest lakers acquisition as me, a non-laker fan, worried.

I mean, fuck. Whatever.

I can only hope that Artest can transcend any sort of normalcy and fuel the fire to some sort of spectacular playoff implosion. It's a fleeting hope but one that will allow me to sleep at night once the season begins.

Sigh.

 
At 7/03/2009 4:06 PM, Blogger RC said...

Also, both of the hotlinks within the latest post are of the fail variety...

 
At 7/04/2009 12:51 AM, Blogger Mike Migdall said...

It's totally the "Superman is an alien but wants to be accepted by the humans by being as plain as white bread, Batman was born into the highest social circle but fuck it, everything must burn" kinda scenario with Kobe and Artest respectively. It'll be fun to watch!

 
At 7/05/2009 5:22 PM, Blogger Octopus Grigori said...

Watching the Lakers pick up Artest, I feel somewhat like a kid in Yemen or Pakistan watching the U.S. elect Barack Obama: it makes them a whole lot harder to hate.

Artest completes Kobe. Kobe is a silent void from which no light escapes. Artest is bursting with earnest, crazy-ass humanity.

Or, Artest is pure id to Kobe's pure superego. Let's see if Jackson can manage in his role as the ego, riding the wild horse of the id, tormented by a swarm of bees above (the superego). (Metaphor via Peter Gay, building on Freud's image of the ego riding the id.)

 
At 7/05/2009 5:27 PM, Blogger Octopus Grigori said...

It's like the Marx Brothers. Guess Jackson is Chico?

 
At 7/05/2009 11:03 PM, Blogger Sports Chump said...

I can't recall an off-season that has featured more blockbuster 'gamble' signings.

Vince to Orlando? Artest to L.A.? Sheed to Boston? Shaq to Cleveland? The Spurs losing Bowen?

One could easily make an argument that all these teams both strengthened, and weakened, their chances of winning a title.

When's tip?

 
At 7/06/2009 11:37 AM, Blogger Todd said...

Haha, space is the place...

 
At 7/06/2009 12:35 PM, Blogger Andy said...

My wife's not much of a basketball fan, so last night my wife's Laker-fan cousin and I got to try to explain to her who Ron Artest was and why he is important. I think she found the Brawl pretty fascinating...

 
At 7/06/2009 2:56 PM, Blogger tray said...

"Artest is complicated in the literal sense, of things fucking each other up and getting in each other's way. Kobe's complicated like a watch or schematic, and it's only us on the outside who don't see the internal logic. Ron Artest is inconvenienced by logic, Kobe redeemed by it."

I would've said the opposite, that it's only us on the outside who don't see the internal logic of Artest. And not even that, because I don't really think Artest's internal logic is so hard to get.

 
At 7/06/2009 10:24 PM, Blogger doof said...

everyone check out the Artest Michael Jackson tribute song.


"I know you're in Heaven, I hope to see you next year"

what are you saying Ron????

 
At 7/07/2009 1:58 PM, Blogger ja:keylee said...

1) Welcome Ron Ron I detested you at first but now! Welcome to the Lake Show!
2) My Freedarko prints of Lamar, Ron, and Kobe. Just took on a new meaning for me by Shoals breathtaking rhyme style.

Just like Sonic Youth said on NYC Ghost & Flowers.

"Small Flowers crack concrete"

LET GO LAKERS!!

 

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