Watching Artest win title painful for Pacers fans

After last night’s Ron Artest-fueled L.A. Lakers NBA title triumph, I have but one question.

Where was Artest’s therapist when he was in Indianapolis?

For those of you who went off to the land of nod before the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in the seventh game of the NBA finals last night, you missed Artest thanking his therapist during a manic on-court interview minutes after the game.

First and foremost, Artest said he needed to thank his therapist.

Huh? He must be joking! Well, it’s difficult to tell with Artest.

I wonder if Artest’s therapist has helped him come to grips with the damage he has caused the Indiana Pacers and this city.

It could be argued that Artest destroyed much of the good karma that Reggie Miller built up in this community for the Pacers and the game of professional basketball over Miller’s 18-year career.

And that’s saying something, because Reggie built up a lot of good karma here. But Artest was an equally good demolition demon.

Artest’s havoc-wreaking career here reached a crescendo with the brawl in Detroit—where he charged up into the fans and started throwing haymakers at whoever.

But it also included asking for time off to produce a rap record (a bad one I might add) and his posing with Larry Bird on the cover of Sports Illustrated then turning around and betraying Pacers ownership and executives, not to mention fans, by demanding a trade. There were, of course, any number of other bizarre acts, many of which seemed to be clear signals to fans that he just didn’t care much about them.

Artest helped Pacers fans and the rest of central Indiana see the worst side of the NBA and professional sports. The fact that Artest accomplished so much in only three years in Indiana is really quite remarkable.

Then last night, those of us who watched the game, had to wince when we heard Magic Johnson say this title is redemption for Artest “after all that has happened to him,” as though Artest was an innocent victim.

I would argue that Artest is the catalyst to much of his own pain. He might have gotten over it with the help of his therapist, but the Pacers and this city’s sports scene have not.

There are two other questions Pacers fans are likely asking themselves today.

First, what might have been had Artest been able to control himself while a Pacer? Remember, the Pacers were pounding the powerhouse Pistons in Detroit the night the fight broke out. The Pacers had all the look of a champion that year. And a franchise can ride out a lot of bad times under the shadow of a championhsip banner.

Second, is there no justice? How could Artest be crowned a champion while our beloved Reggie never won a title?

While Artest is fitted for his championships ring, the Pacers struggle to sell tickets to fans forced to wade through the rubble that Artest left behind.

No, Artest isn’t the lone culprit. There were other players who swung wrecking balls at the house that Reggie built.

And it’s true that former Pacers President Donnie Walsh was responsible for bringing Artest here from Chicago. It was a big gamble to bring an NBA title to Indy, and it almost worked.

But Artest struck the biggest, most damaging, blows.

The Pacers haven’t recovered financially.

The Blue and Gold fan base hasn’t recovered psychologically.

And at this point, I’m not sure any amount of therapy is going to completely undo the damage done.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Editor's note: IBJ is now using a new comment system. Your Disqus account will no longer work on the IBJ site. Instead, you can leave a comment on stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Past comments are not currently showing up on stories, but they will be added in the coming weeks. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.