The amazing part is of this is not that Ron Artest won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association.
The amazing part is he deserved it.
Ron Artest — he of the halftime Hennessy drinks, the dog abuse, the Malice at the Palace — has latched on to the cause of promoting mental health and made it his own with the passion he did all those other things before.
He sat on the podium after winning an NBA title and thanked his therapist for helping him get to this point. He from there has taken a number of steps to try and remove some of the stigma from people — particularly youth — from getting mental help.
That included raffling off his prized championship ring to raise money for the cause, donating part of his salary and going before congress to talk about legislation that would make it easier for youth to get mental health services.
“Ron has such a passion for the issue, and has demonstrated such leadership he was a perfect choice for such a prestigious award,” said Doug Smith of the Toronto Star and president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. “His work embodies the kind of dedication to important causes that NBA players have become known for.”
The 2005 version of me would be stunned by this. But the 2011 version loves it and thinks it fantastic.
And well deserved.
Ron Artest, mental health spokesman.
It’s true. From our friends at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune comes the news that Artest has teamed with Congresswoman Grace Napolitano to raise awareness of mental health and mental health programs for youth. He’ll be speaking at a school in Montebello (a suburban area of Los Angeles).
As always when a politician is involved, there is a political motive. Napolitano is the sponsor of the Mental Health Act in Schools of 2009 bill (HR 2531, if you feel the need to look it up) which is designed to provide wider mental health programs for schools and youth. The bill is currently in committee.
We can all jump on the “Artest and mental health?” jokes if we want, but really this is a pretty good fit. Artest is a pretty good example of how psychiatry can help people — remember Artest thanked his psychiatrist in his post-championship press conference. And with all the pressure in that game, he may have been the best player on the court for most of it, dealing with the pressure well.
Artest is a lot of things, but he is also very self-aware. Far more than most NBA players, it seems. He knows who he is. He can be immature at times, but he is now far more mature than he was even five years ago. And he accepts who he is.
And Artest is just flat out honest. With himself, with others. Children can relate to that. So if anyone can talk to kids about screwing up and figuring it out later, it’s Artest.
Still, another story we did not expect to see today.