Friday, July 22, 2011
THE SHOT THAT COUNTED
Ron Artest's Greatest Miss.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Here's the tip.
For all those lockout and post Dallas sweep blues, let's take it back to glory days like Bruce Springsteen and remember the Lakers champion season of 2009-10. Now let me ask you a question? What was the most important shot of that championship season? A beautiful buzzer beater from Derek Fisher that will prove timeless on both ESPN and YouTube? A cute crossover that turned into a terrific turnaround? Maybe it was a swish? A fade away? A Kobe? Perhaps one of those half a dozen or so game-icers with the hottest shots of the year, but most important?
The most important shot of the 2009-10 season was an awful, flat footed, Fred Flintstone clanger in the fading minutes of the 2010 Western Conference Finals. The only way the most important shot of last season read on the stat sheet is when it rattled off the rim, planted a smacker on the glass and then was hugged by a rebounder.
One of the most pivotal scenes in last year's NBA story came from one of its biggest characters. Now, it may have looked like nothing, but it was one of those back against the wall, against the world moments where our hero has to dig for something deeper before they fell harder than Samuel L. Jackson and The Rock in 'The Other Guys.' Our guy in this picture however -- our hero on the big jumbotron screen was Ron Artest.
It's the fourth quarter of Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns and the sand in the hour glass is falling fast in this game before the series heads back to the Arizona desert. The Lakers are in play and Artest finds space to shoot a two, but he doesn't split that deuce. Instead the ball careens off the rim and is offensively snatched by the grasshopper grasp of Pau Gasol. With everyone focused on the Spaniard and that player with Italian roots, Artest shadows to his left and is open behind the three point line. It seems that nobody cares except for Gasol who serves Ron the butter. As Ron spots up awkwardly, there's almost a collective gasp between players, fans, coaches and commentators. It seems that Ron spent a little too long in the freezer as the shot already looks cold. Now the game's yet to be iced as Ron's feet barely leave the ground while his shot barely makes the rim. With no goose neck for this lame duck attempt Ron backpedals awkwardly like a mummy. This time he won't be the daddy, yet.
Everyone’s wondering what Ron was thinking. Ron was probably remembering at the start of the season when he said that if the Lakers don't win the championship everyone could blame it on him. At that very moment, they were. Marv Albert can't believe it. There's exclamations made but no trademark 'Yes!' The Zen master is not calm. Everyone in the huddle is a little upset. Ron admits with an 'I know, I know' nod that the shot was ill-advised as Phil Jackson asks him, "why?" Then when he looks away Artest pulls one of those awkward faces to himself. One of those 'aaaaakwaaaard' looks. As Ron looks more than a little embarrassed, Lamar Odom nudges Ron and reassures him that everything’s alright. That's that QB love right there. Still everyone's left wondering why the HELL Ron took that shot. Well I'm going to tell you. (Don't worry Ron I got you).
Former Laker come New Jersey Net Jordan Farmar puts it best, "Still, I like that Ron Artest shot." That shot was crucial and counted. It made its mark despite being an X instead of an O. Sometimes things do happen for a reason and I'm not talking about no patronizing, clichéd end of relationship excuse. Just like Jordan, Artest was never scared to take a crucial shot, make or miss, and just like MJ said before, to succeed he had to fail first.
Sometimes one ugly shot deserves another and so came the waning tenths of seconds of the same game. Now Kobe's rocking the pill (someone who should have the ball in his hands during these moments) but even his shot doesn't find rhyme or reason as the Mamba's out of rhythm. So off the iron and back into play the ball goes. Now it seems as if every player on the court and on the bench, plus everyone in the arena and their momma ran for the loose ball like kids in the park chasing a soccer ball. It's Ron who times it right however, in a hare and tortoise situation where Phoenix's Jason Richardson ends up resting under the tree, or in this case the hoop. As Ron's Flintstone fast legs seem to escape him he hoists another awkward shot off balance that banks of the glass. This time, however, it's wet like victory champagne.
As Gold arms rise and purple, Phoenix hearts sink, red illuminates the backboard. The game is a rap like 'My World' and Marv Albert can give his verbal thumbs up. Chick Hearn can look down with pride as the games finally in the fridge, with the series soon to be in the freezer. Now isn't redemption the realest story in the NBA? Ron redeemed himself in less than a few minutes and confirmed that he was the right show stopper for the show time. As the game came to a close Ron and Kobe ended up in each others face in a much different way to that time the year before. LA was back in control and someone great named Ariza was merely an afterthought.
Ron and L.A. both needed that shot. Not just for that game, but the even bigger games that followed. Even Kobe had to throw up air balls before he hit the big time. You sometimes have to hit rock bottom in order to reach the top. The Lakers had that after losing to Boston two years back. Now, when it came to the closer of the Boston-LA Finals in Game 7, the time was Ron's. They say adversity builds character. Well Artest has been through his fair share of adversity and has a lot of character to boot. Ron-Ron ensured that LA saw double and was by far the MVP of the deciding game. His defense and complete play kept LA's throne guarded, and made them the all around champs for another season. Artest even hit a crucial three pointer, similar to the one that bricked against Phoenix, to cement the win.
Phil Jackson may not have told Artest to shoot it (in his mind and Ron's) but his therapist probably did. It may have been ill-advised but in the press conference following the game to Ron it was "whatever." WAP! Obama would be proud. Change had come for a guy who was throwing punches at people the last time he sent the crowd in a frenzy. Number 37 really made Game 7 a thriller. Michael would have been proud too; Tyson, Jordan, Jackson. Then, the Lakers and Artest finally came together in perfect harmony like that autotune on the T-Pain remix Of Artest's 'Champions' track. Although this season hasn't been the same song, once World Peace returns from his world tour in Cheshire or Glasgow, he'll be ready to play again. The next time Gasol grabs a board and sees his frontcourt mate open like the Venice Beach courts on a playoff night, he won't think twice about passing.