The Starting Five Ron Artest Interview: “I Keep it 100%”

*repost because original link was broken. Just so happens to be Ron and his brother Daniel’s birthday. 

There is no denying Ron’s positive effect on Queensbridge

This interview was conducted this summer (December 2007) in Long Island as Ron was getting ready for the season–just days after the referee gambling scandal hit the press.

Ron Artest has been through a lot since coming out of St. Johns eight years ago and it’s been well documented. I wanted to do this interview to give fans a more well rounded opinion because of how Ron’s been vilified before and after The Brawl. I’m thankful Ron agreed to do this because most athletes would remain reticent and never speak again to the press. I would see tidbits of him giving back to the community and wondered if this cat is so much of a monster, then why do children all over the nation seem to love him? He’ll tell you he’s responsible for the public perception of him because of his rebellious relationship with authority early on in his career. He’s made a fair share of mistakes, but it’s not the whole story and we all know how the media runs with negativity.

Yes, athletes make millions of dollars to play a game–we all understand that. It also would be ridiculous to think and publicly say sports fans have a right to act like fools at a sporting event just because they’ve shelled out hard earned money. To some of us, athletics is more than entertainment. Fans and media heap undeserving amounts of blame on athletes while the world loudly crumbles around them.

America dropped the ball after what happened in Detroit that night by not properly scrutinizing fan behavior. The athletes involved lost millions of dollars, but what about John Green or the foolish fans that came on the court only to be clocked by Jermaine O’Neal?

It must be noted Ron does an amazing amount of charity work in communities all over the nation. He doesn’t want it all publicized, but it’s criminal that almost none of it gets any media shine.

Ron this season is averaging a very respectable 19 points, 6 rebounds and four assists as the Kings come off their second road win in New Jersey last night 106-101.

This is a very compelling interview. Ron is honest about his professional career, is very contrite about his transgressions and acutely aware of his place in society. Read this very carefully and speak your mind candidly afterwards.


Michael Tillery: Specifically Ron, how will this referee scandal affect the league?

Ron Artest: Guys are making a lot of money playing basketball. Some come from the ghetto; some come from more established means. We all play for the love. When they are on the court, they aren’t thinking about money. I am not thinking about money when I am on the court. All I want to do is win. When you have people affecting the game…mainly middle aged to older white men, it affects everything you live for. It makes you wonder what have I been playing for? What have I been working my butt off for? It’s really a bad situation for everyone, but specifically for players like me that came out of the ghetto and worked really hard to get to where we are. At the same time, God is a forgiving God. Some people are good people. Tim Donaghy was a good guy to me. He probably gave me some techs, but never really offended me. I just hope he becomes a better person out of all of this.

MT: He ever eject you?

RA: He probably ejected me a couple of times, but I don’t really have a problem with referees. If a referee makes a call that I don’t agree with, I separate myself from the moment. It’s just a part of the game. I just expect calls not to go my way (Ron subtlety laughs these words). It was frustrating early on in my NBA playing career. I can see why Rasheed Wallace gets frustrated at times. I think that players know the game. The players know what a good call is and what’s a bad call–as a body–all four hundred and fifty players. You put those all the players in the NBA in a room and talk about calls? You are going to get some good feedback. Many players complain. I don’t think every player could be wrong. At the end of the day, basketball is basketball. I know you have many rule changes. They changed the rules for Shaq. They changed the rules when Barkley was backing down. Naismith did not create this for the game to be changed. I can see how the rule changes would help Tim get involved. I can see how he could mask calls because everything is really up for interpretation. I just hope he becomes a better person.

MT: Do you think this is an isolated incident and does this scandal make you look at questionable calls in the past and wonder if they were authentic? That maybe there was some underlying reason why a specific call was made at a critical juncture in a specific game?

RA: Two things. The first thing is that in the present climate that has caused the public to look at the game more closely, there are obviously calls that were questionable. I don’t know how they are going to pinpoint those exact calls or look at those games as a whole, but some calls were like wow! Was I a part of some of those games?

Secondly, it’s fun playing against the other team and the referees. I’ve said this before. Sometimes we go into the game knowing that we are going to play against a certain opponent and certain refs. It’s not that it’s the referees fault; it’s just how the game goes sometimes. Some refs just miss some calls. It makes you wonder why. Sometimes you can tell a ref that he missed a call. He’ll go in at halftime, come back out, and say either “Ron, I missed that one, or I didn’t miss this one.” That’s how I communicate. I just take it as a challenge. Many teams that win championships….like Detroit, I think they took that championship from the Lakers. Some teams are just given championships and I feel some other teams take them. For Cleveland to have won the championship this year, they had to take it. Sometimes you have to go out there and play. Referees can’t predict the outcome all the time. I’ve worked hard on my jump shot because I felt that I was fouled consistently when I went to the hole.

I remember in Game 6 against Detroit, I went through Tayshaun Prince and the ref called an offensive foul. It’s not my fault that I’m 260. What am I supposed to do about that? Therefore, I worked on my jumper and now that I can shoot, they can’t call a foul when I hit my jumper and slide my feet. That’s why I work so hard on my defense. They can’t stop me from hitting my jumper because players don’t want to get up on me. I think they favor the lighter player when you are in the post. It’s frustrating like me and other bigger guys because it’s guys out there flopping. This was never a rule in ‘85 when Michael Jordan was playing, Bill Laimbeer, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley…or even back in the day with Bob Cousy. Since all these players from overseas have come into the NBA, they have added flopping. That’s not how we play. That’s not how Charles Barkley played. That’s not how Oscar Robertson played. That’s not how Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played. That’s not how Reggie Miller played. We are constantly adjusting to new rules.

Sometimes I don’t call it basketball; I call it base-ket-ball. It’s just like a new game. (Ron chuckles) God gave me the ability to play base-ket-ball. Overall though, the NBA is a fun organization and I’m blessed to be playing in it.

MT: I personally feel that you are one of the top players in the league. You’ve always been defensive minded and have over the course of your career become a complete offensive player. In the last couple of years you haven’t been given the total respect you certainly deserve as a defensive stopper–you hear the names Bruce Bowen and Ben Wallace as being the top defensive players in the NBA. What makes your defensive focus a priority?

RA: That’s how I grew up. I grew up always wanting to play defense–always wanting to lock down my man. The year I won defensive player of the year, I had one of the best years defensively that has ever been seen in the NBA. There was a statistic that saw me hold players I guarded to six or eight points. I held TMac to like seven or nine points that year. One month Kobe was averaging thirty-five and I held him to eighteen–I did that this year too. Bruce Bowen is a good defender. I think he’s good for basketball. From a business standpoint, I think there are many guys that are good for basketball when you mention awards. They help keep the NBA relevant. I’m more like the ‘hood side of things. People in the ‘hood recognize me as the best defender. There’s many people in sports that recognize me as the best defender. One thing I have to stop saying is that it’s all about the hood, because sometimes it’s more of a top media thing. They give the public direction on where they want the public to go. Whenever I go into the masses in every hood in every state, the public tells me that I’m the best defender. If you put all the players in the NBA in a room and ask them who is the best defender in the league or even at the wing position, I’d get the majority of the votes.

MT: Give me your top five players in the league.

RA: Top five in the league? 1. Tim Duncan, 2. Steve Nash, 3. LeBron James, 4. Dwyane Wade–hold up!

Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant–let me change that up real fast, Shaq–definitely. I gotta put Steve Nash and Jason Kidd together, because that’s a toss up right there–a major tossup.

MT: Where would you put yourself?

RA: I definitely feel like I’m one of the top players in the game. I would say top seven. A lot of organizations feel that way too. That’s what’s really important that the organizations and players want me on their team. A few organizations don’t want me on their team because of my history and the whole image thing. People who know the real Ron Artest are fine with what I bring to the table so they would be comfortable with what I would contribute to the organization. There’s always two sides to me. There’s a true rebel and a caring person who feels the importance of my place in this world and what I can give back to it. Both sides are no nonsense.

MT: Scenario for you. Hypothetically, a youngster is wearing your jersey and his parents hear in the news that you get into a domestic altercation. His father tells his child to take your jersey off and throw it into the trash. What would you say to the father and also the child?

RA: That’s a good question. I know if my son was wearing someone’s jersey and they got into some trouble, I wouldn’t want him to look up to that dude. You want your kids to look up to good people–the most perfect person if possible. I was in the hood the other day and a lot of the parents and other people were showing a lot of love. When you grow up in the projects, you grow up a certain way and it takes a lot to get out of that way of growing up. When I went through of getting charged for a domestic misdemeanor…

MT: Tell me what happened.

RA: Basically, how me and my wife grew up, we have to leave that in the past. We grew up seeing parents fight. That was just kind of normal for someone growing up in the ghetto. I think you have to really reach the root to solve the problem. We came here as slaves–separated from our mothers and fathers. Mothers were sometimes separated from kids, raped, and burned. It was a domino effect on our minds. I think that’s why I’ve seen a lot of violence. I think that’s why my mother has seen violence–her parents fighting. I think that’s why a lot of black people see their parents fight until they get out that environment. Then the black family is able to make it better for their kids and so forth and so on. I’m in a situation where I’m making it better for my kids so they won’t see the stuff that I’ve seen. They can make it even better for their kids. I’m at a point that I have to realize that I am older–my wife does too. Certain things just aren’t worth risking my career and being apart of.

MT: What do you love the most about your wife?

RA: I’ve known my wife since I was fourteen–so for thirteen years. She’s a real good girl. She’s a sweetheart. She’s always been there for me. She always has my best interests at heart. When the brawl in Detroit happened, she wanted me to have my own lawyer. She’s a real fighter. She never wants me to give into to people who don’t have my best interests in mind. She’s always right when offering advice on friends or mistakes that I’ve made. She’s there for me now.

MT: Why is it important for you to give back to children?

RA: I think it’s important and should be especially a priority for me to give back to black people. I’m going to Honduras. They need my resources in Latin America. (Ron went to Honduras with Feed the Children in August and helped distribute food to families living in poverty). There’s a lot of poverty and neglect in the world and in our own country. I was also in Indiana and gave back to a poor white community that had a high dropout rate. BUT I have to give back to my people first and foremost. I know a lot of specifically black people that don’t give back. They change. I haven’t changed because of the money. You have kids that have gone to jail for dealing drugs. Then you may have someone out there that caught a domestic violence charge and people think they can’t change. You have black kids believing that. It’s my job to tell black kids that if you make a mistake, get back up on your feet. History shows that people make mistakes.

Always available

There are probably people in big business right now that were moving drugs to my neighborhood that you know people don’t know anything about. At the end of the day, we didn’t make cocaine where I’m from or we didn’t have the machinery to make guns. We don’t have that type of power or those types of resources. The drugs infest my people–my young little black brothas and sistas. It’s my job to tell these kids that the only reason why drugs and guns are here is for you to shoot yourselves and to slow your thought process. You have two things there that can wipe ya’ll out. One of my cousins made over a million dollars in my hood. He went to jail for seven years. My other cousin was moving drugs and went to jail for ten years. One of my other cousins got his head beat with a bat right in my hood. Either that’s going to happen to you or you are going to kill one of your brothers or sisters. The drugs you give them might affect a baby about to be born. All you are doing by dealing drugs is affecting your people. You are killing your people and making a little bit of money on the side.

I have to keep it 100% true.

That’s why I always go back. I went to Africa, the motherland. That’s where my people are from. We were shipped here but I wanted to make sure I went home. The next time I go, I’m going to make a bigger difference.

It’s hard to make an impact being just me. I need more people to help.

When I go to other hoods, I treat them as if I’m from that hood. I was just in the Roosevelt section. All these hoods are my hood. That’s how I feel. I want people who are growing up in poverty, in situations where drugs and violence are prevalent and are the norm, where education is not important because survival is more important. I want these people to realize there is another path, another way of life. You don’t have to sell drugs. You don’t have to shoot people. You need to stay in school, get an education; so you can get a job you enjoy and live a healthy lifestyle–a lifestyle that doesn’t negatively impact yourself or your neighborhood.

MT: Speak about the Africa trip and why it wasn’t publicized more thoroughly. It was Etan Thomas, Maurice Evans, you and some others. I interviewed Etan for a blog I run with some talented brothas called The Starting Five. One of our many intelligent folk that comment on the blog (Jordi, who has a blog, The Serious Tip) stated that the only reason he heard about the Africa trip was through my interview with Etan. What do you want to say to the press at large right now to help them understand that Ron Artest is a good dude?

RA: I keep it 100%. I don’t know if the press knows what that means. That means you keep it 100% real. I like to know the truth. History books? I feel like I went to school for nothing! All these years? I was being taught lies–not everything obviously. I look back and say, what the hell was I going to school for? Life is bigger than sports. People don’t understand that about me. I’m so passionate about everything I do–sometimes a little too passionate. That’s why I went back to Africa. I just don’t want people to think I’m some out of control dude. That’s what people make it seem like sometime. I even have my own friend–at least I thought it was my friend–which I thought should help me. I did an interview with Mark Jackson (who attended St. John’s in the eighties). He went on air asking me if I needed some medicine. People are only saying that because I play in the league. Off the court, I’m a very different person. I’m doing all kinds of charity things. First, why should I take medicine just to play basketball? How is that going to help me? I do and have done a lot of good things off the court. I felt betrayed because I thought Mark was supposed to be looking out for me in the interview and did the opposite. There’s been a couple of people who have just thrown me under the bus who are from the hood and change when they get into a high position. People need to know that I’m a real person. You have all kinds of athletes catering to the corporate world for endorsements. Yeah I would love to do that but I’ll sacrifice that so the hood can get the attention it sorely needs. The ghetto needs someone always in their corner so they are not out there alone. When they see me come through, they just think I’m some hood dude. When people think of people like that, they think you are a thug that smokes weed and is always in the club. When I speak to people from the ghetto and kick a little bit of knowledge I’ve learned from experience, and try to help them learn from my experiences, they say, “Oh shit, this nigga is real!” This dude is real or whatever. I’m not some young, rich spoiled athlete that happened to be from the hood. My opinion of being ghetto and being hood is having intelligence while also being a strong person. I want to try to help those who are still stuck in the hood and let them know they can elevate themselves, learn from their mistakes, get an education and lead a better life.

MT: I’ve interviewed many athletes. One thing I’ve noticed about you here today that you seem to be very calm when fans approach you–of all races. I saw you taking pictures and giving autographs before you knew who I was. Why is it so important for you to be among the people and to show them that you are just a regular guy?

RA: Definitely. As much damage as I’ve–and the media–created, people need to see a different side of me. When people come in contact with me, they leave with a good impression. They get a chance to know me just for who I am. No matter what they do, the media cannot turn New York or my fans against me. They can turn everyone else against me BUT New York knows what I’m all about. They know where I’m from. They know how I grew up. They know what’s in my heart because of all the good things I’ve done here for years. I’ve been doing charity work here since I was a teenager. I do it in my sleep. I’m a caring and giving person. People in New York look past all the other media driven stuff. They see what I’m all about.

MT: Talk about the Freedom event and why you are here.

RA: My agent, Mark Stevens, is from here. I thought it was really important that I come. He was from my hood, but also grew up in Roosevelt. He’s giving back. Joe Torry, Judge Mathis and I are here. I think it’s a good way to have people come out and have community leaders let them get their necessary points across. We then can throw our two cents in there. I wish there was more gangsters here though. I wish there was more street dudes. Dudes that are in the street hustling. Kids look up to them. They don’t look up to Tiger Woods, the 9 to 5 bus driver, or the sanitation worker. They look up to the street dude. I told the people in charge that they needed to get in touch with the brothas on the street so they can give back. You can be out there doing negative dirt, but you can still give back. I ask the street dudes and hustlers: You mean to tell me that you want the next young fella to be doing the same thing as you do and end up in jail? Give your time and tell the kids that what you do isn’t right. Tell them to change their life and give them examples of your friends that didn’t make it because of the bad choices they made. Then you can go back and do your dirt, but hopefully you’ll change. Give the kids an opportunity to hear your experiences so they can make better decisions.

MT: My former fiancée, Brandi Dilks and I are watching the TV one night. Indiana is playing Detroit. As I remember, there was a hard foul on Ben Wallace?

RA: Soft foul.

Before the cup

MT: Soft foul? OK, soft foul on Ben. After you and Ben had that initial confrontation, you chose to take yourself out of the confrontation, chill and laid down on the scorer’s table. Why did you go into the crowd?

RA: What happened was…when I fouled Ben, it was a real soft foul. I didn’t expect Ben to react the way he reacted. I didn’t try to hurt Ben. Yes, I foul people hard. It’s part of the game. I have never intentionally tried to hurt anyone. Hard fouls happen in the flow of the game. Ben came back at me. I didn’t want to fight. I was having a good season. I got a couple of nice endorsements that I was happy about. I had three NBA commercials. I had my LA Gear deal. I had just shot the commercial with Spike Lee. My career was about to take off. I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that. When Ben Wallace pushed me and attacked me–I think Tim Donaghy was at that game too…

MT: Wow!

RA: Ben was supposed to be ejected too. I gave the refs at least three minutes to eject this guy man. I didn’t see anyone ejected. So, now this guy is attacking me. I tried to lie down. It was hard because Ben Wallace is strong. They can’t even hold him back. He’s throwing towels at me and hitting me in the eye with his wristband. So now I’m like this monster…Ben Wallace is a beast! They can’t even stop him during the game of getting offensive rebounds so they can’t stop him from getting to me either. He was getting closer and closer. I was trying to lie down, but how am I going to lay down if this dude is throwing stuff at me. Then this other dude throws something at me so I gotta….

If it were just Ben and I, I would have fought him. It was too many people around to be looking like a fool fighting. I just didn’t want to do that. You know what I’m sayin? We would have looked like two girls. Bottom line, the referees didn’t eject him, it cost me six million dollars, a bunch of other good stuff I was doing that year, and it made me look real real bad. Then all you heard was people saying that Ron Artest was going into the stands! They never said that John “white dude” Green threw beer at me. They still don’t say that and it’s how many years later? They don’t say that I was lying on the table for three minutes. They don’t say Ben Wallace should have been ejected. They don’t say that I didn’t start that whole fight.

They just say that I went into the stands.

MT: Did you have any idea the whole situation was going to be as big as it turned out to be?

RA: Nah, not really. People still bring it up. They never talk about how this dude threw beer in my face and it got all into my eyes and stuff.

MT: Are most fans good people?

RA: Yes, of course! I can hand select the fans who are just a-holes throughout the whole league. Some of them are just obnoxious but 99.9, eh, 99.7%, they are good people.

MT: Everything is cool with Ben and yourself?

Yeah, Ben is my boy.

There are times that Elton Brand and I got into it, but that is my boy. I grew up with Elton.

MT: You played AAU together right?

RA: Yeah, AAU. Same thing with Lamar Odom. We’ve gotten into a fight before. That’s my man. I love Lamar.

I didn’t grow up with Ben, but that’s my brotha. You know? He was mad because I fouled him. They were losing. The Pacers was on their way to winning the championship that year. I would have been mad too. That incident had nothing to do with Ben. That’s my brotha. That had to do with other things.

MT: How does the rest of the league perceive you? Do they see you as the monster you are portrayed by the media? Do they see you as another person playing professional basketball as they are?

RA: Players know I play hard. You can’t relate to everybody. Not everybody is going to understand you. Not everyone grew up the same. The league was brought up on hardcore players. What team was the first to bring in a black player?

MT: The Celtics.

RA: The black African took the league to another level. It became a nice little melting pot with all the foreigners that are playing today. The league is probably mostly black right?

MT: Yeah, somewhere between 80 and 85%.

RA: I’m just one of those dudes that when I do something, it is over publicized. Ever since the brawl, I’ve been cast in a negative light. For the most part, dudes are doing a good job. The fans are coming out. You have guys like Dwyane Wade–who is good people. Le Bron James is a funny and colorful guy. He is a star and good people.

MT: Who are some of your friends in the league besides Lamar Odom and Elton Brand?

RA: I got a lot of friends. I played with Speedy Claxton four years when we were in high school. Speedy was our point guard along with Eric Barkley. Steve Jacks (Stephen Jackson) is cool. Dale Davis is cool. I’ve met a lot of people over the years. Kobe is real cool. We’ve had so many wars together, we don‘t have a choice but to be cool. Of course, he’s got the rings, but I was that dude that is just…tough. Every time you play against me, you know it’s going to be on. The way I play has given me a lot of friends because they respect what I do on the court. I talk to players all the time during dead balls.

MT: Did you and Stephen Jackson develop a bond after the brawl?

RA: Yeah…I kind of wish I never would have walked out like that on my team. I love Jeff Foster. He’s a monster. I would do anything for Jeff Foster. I wish I never let that pressure get to me. I never wanted to go back to Detroit in a Pacers uniform because of everything that happened. Everything I worked for almost went down the drain and it wasn‘t entirely my fault but, Some white dude–John Green–threw beer in my face and my whole career was almost over. I never wanted to go back to Detroit ever–regardless of what uniform I was wearing. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of that. Now I’m with Sacramento. Even going back to Indiana is kind of hard. It’s hard going back to Indiana to play knowing that’s where I wanted to finish my career. I wanted to finish with Jermaine O’Neal, Steve, Jeff Foster and Jamaal Tizzy (Tinsley). I guess now I’m a little bit older and those pressures aren’t there anymore.

MT: The things that happened in Indiana–especially at the end–would you attribute it more to business dealings? The Pacers and your camp seemed so far apart. Was it really that much animosity? We read you wanted to go back to Indiana. Larry Bird and Donnie Walsh made some statements saying–and I’m paraphrasing–they didn’t know what to do with you.

RA: There was a lot of pressure from the brawl.

I initiated everything–saying that I wanted to be traded. People just didn’t know just how much I didn’t want to go back to Detroit. I just felt that something was going to happen. I felt like somebody was going to do something stupid and I was going to go up in there and smack the crap out of somebody (I laugh, but Ron does not). When I said I wanted to be traded, that’s not what I wanted at all. I didn’t have a chance to think. I wanted to take five and think about what I wanted for my career. My ego got in the way. I developed an ego, which I never had. When I got into the NBA and got a little bit of money, I developed this bullshit ego thinking I was who I’m not. I was upset about my contract. I was upset that I wasn’t solidified as the go to man.

It was just bullshit on my behalf. It cost me some friendships that could have progressed. I could have gotten to know Jermaine a little better. I could have gotten to know Stephen Jackson a little better. Jamaal Tinsley. It’s something I truly regret to this day. I always wish…if I had an opportunity to play with that team again? I think that I might. With that same team. I’d give everything up to do that. Not just the stars either. The whole team.

The Pacers were in a situation where they didn’t know what I was going to do next. I can’t fault the decisions they made.

MT: There was video of you flashing the CD of your group outside your car. Was that just you being an entrepreneur and marketing your business?

RA: People don’t understand. When David Stern suspended me, he told me that he was past the brawl. He was pretty upset over the brawl, but he seemed more upset that I came up with a rap label and saying that I was going to retire. Those were the main things that were getting to David. The main reason I was suspended was not the brawl. It was everything else. The best thing that could have happened to me was taking a leave of absence without pay. It would have given me a chance to clear my mind and then I wouldn’t have been in the brawl. I wouldn’t have been in the brawl (Ron laughs).

MT: What are you thinking about the way black athletes are portrayed? It seems like ya’ll can’t do anything right. I’m reading right here on this piece of paper in front of me what you do inside the community and I’m shocked that you’ve done so much extensively. It’s just not spoken about.

RA: It’s not spoken about.

MT: They rather talk about a cup you didn’t even throw.

RA: Yeah, yeah.

MT: Why do you think that is? It seems as if Black athletes can’t do anything good unless corporate sponsors back it.

R&B singer Ray Jay–who is part of the Freedom event–walks up. Ron, as big of a star as he is, looks stars struck.

RA: With the Michael Vick case. The same way they are promoting that story, they should have promoted the good he’s done in the past–when he was doing it. It’s very irresponsible that the media outlets only seem to promote certain things. We going to Africa should have been a big thing. At least BET should have shown it.

MT: Exactly!

RA: Somebody should have shown it. They should show me going throughout all these different neighborhoods the whole summer giving back. It’s not even about sports anymore. They just want to highlight the bad things.

Even with the referee scandal. Who knows if Tim Donaghy ever did anything good? Who knows if referees have any charity events? They should show that too. Don’t just wait for them to do something bad and totally blow it out of proportion. Now the whole world thinks the whole world is bad. People watching sports are going to think it’s all bad stuff. People are probably thinking that something bad is definitely going to happen this year. Someone gets caught in a DUI or smoking marijuana and people are going to say that that’s their life and nothing else. Athletes are just no good. They don’t want to show that Maurice Evans brought the whole tribe shoes. He was hugging the babies with AIDS. Showing all the kids love. That’s not important to the media. There are people that are not stars in the NBA that are doing good. Black, white or whatever.

MT: What percentage do you think of the league that is really giving back?

RA: Man…of course I can’t give a concrete percentage, but it’s a whole lot. Richard Hamilton gives back a lot. People don’t know about that. Baron Davis gives back to his community. A lot of the people I know give back and don’t even have the time. I personally am going to every ghetto in every state I go in. People who don’t have the time also give back with the foundations they have formed. It’s just not publicized. It should be publicized a lot more. It should be on the 10 o’clock news and CNN. What’s it going to take out of CNN’s time if they take an hour a day and publicize a bunch of good stuff?

Not just Angelina Jolie.

MT: The NBA is seen as this thug league…

RA: It’s not a thug league. Guys like Kevin Olie–from the hood–is a good guy with a beautiful family. He’s a beautiful Christian. Trenton Hassell doesn’t drink or smoke and has a beautiful family. Fred Jones doesn’t drink or smoke. He doesn’t have any kids and is a beautiful person. Grant Hill has a beautiful family and is a great person.

What about those people?

The NBA is not a thug league. There’s a couple of players that grew up similar to rappers who have grown up. What are they going to lynch us for that too? It’s not our fault that we grew up that way. We are talented and smart.

MT: You were a math major correct? How did that happen?

RA: It was my favorite subject. Thank God, I wasn’t a history major (We laugh)!

MT: What do you want your legacy to be to the game of basketball–not just the NBA, the Red Storm or high school? What are you personally giving back to the game?

RA: This is something that I never wanted to do, but I’m trying to change how people see me. It’s so hard. I know I’m going to get devils trying to shoot little bullets at me. I gotta dodge the bullets from the devils. It’s important that I go above and beyond what I have done with community service. I want to add to the thoughts of people and not just that I’m the guy who had this big fight. I want people to see my game so they will learn how to play better.

I want people to see that I’m one of the best two-way players to ever play the game.

I wasn’t the best offensive player to play. I’m not the best defensive player to ever play, but there are not that many players that have done it like I have both ways. I can lock up and score. LeBron has an opportunity to get his game to that point. Dwyane Wade too. A lot of people have that opportunity. That’s something individual. I must say that I’m not a selfish player by any means. I’ll sacrifice everything just to win a ring. I couldn’t say that a couple of years ago. I’ll be honest. I’ve always played unselfish basketball but I wasn’t totally unselfish. I was a little selfish at times. That’s where I’ve matured.

MT: During this interview, you’ve come across as very contrite. Are you truly sorry for your mistakes or is it just a façade to get in better graces?

RA: People don’t understand that after the brawl happened, in my first public appearance, I said that I was sorry.

I said I was sorry.

I didn’t know the affect it had on the league corporate wise. I didn’t want that to happen. I wanted the league to make money so all of us can keep making money. Life is not about making money, but this is my job so I want to make as much as I can so my family‘s family can be secure.

People have to put themselves in my shoes and understand that the brawl was not entirely my fault. How many people are going to let somebody push them under any circumstance? I did. I let somebody push me. I showed a lot of restraint. What about that? How many people are going to let someone throw beer in their face from rows high off the floor? There are going to be people that disagree with that.

All my mistakes? I’m definitely sorry. People that look up to me, I want them to see me doing something that’s right. I see kids doing stuff in my neighborhood like drink and other stuff and I wonder what kind of affect did I have on them. I’m at a point where I don’t want to have a negative effect on anyone. When stuff was publicized, I used to say to myself that I now have to go out and do stuff double time in communities and give them a different side of me.

If I get a chance to talk to people like you–reporting the right things–then I definitely want to affect people in a positive way.

MT: You alluded to going back to the hood. What’s it like going back as a very successful man and seeing peers you grew up in stuck in the same spot? Why are players so reluctant to give up their boys even though they might be getting them in trouble?

RA: There’s two things. In my situation, I had some friends that I didn’t grow up with so I didn’t know what kind of agenda they had. You don’t know if they love you for who you are or just for the success that you’ve gained. That’s why people don’t want to let go. They just don’t know. I think athletes should hang around people with just as much success–other than their friends. Athletes gotta trust the people that stuck by them before they made it. You don’t need fake friends. You should be around people who are ambitious and want to be better people. If you have people coming to your home and just sitting around, that’s not cool. You can’t be in my home just doing nothing days at a time.

Those people gotta go! They gotta go!!

They have to try to do something. I have two of my closest friends that moved in with me and they started working. Those people you wanna be around. Then I had some people that didn’t want to work. They didn’t want to make any money. Those type of people can’t stay with me. Then you have people that want to put your life in jeopardy. They want to smoke around you. They want to smoke in your house. Drink in your house and bring girls in your house. For all the young fellas out there that are trying to make it, you can’t be around those types of people.

It’s just too much at risk.

The same thing with the Michael Vick case. You have people who say they are your friends, but are definitely not your friends. You have to be street smarter than that to identify those types. There was times that I was street smart, but I didn’t act on it. I didn’t go with my gut feeling. My wife would tell me that I had to do this or that right now and I had to get rid of this or that person right now. I would say no baby it’s all right and something stupid would happen.

I would say, “Damn baby, you were right.”

MT: Who out there that’s in high school or college that makes you say wow?

RA: My little brother Daniel, he lead his team in the Dallas NBDL Showcase with 21 points and an 11 rebound average. People need to watch out for him. He’s a poor man’s Charles Barkley. He’s six four, three hundred pounds–muscle. He’s working hard. I’m impressed with him. I still haven’t gotten a chance to see Kevin Durant play. I’m very anxious to see him play. Everybody is telling me that he’s a very good player. I can’t wait to see him play. There’s a kid from Coney Island (Lance Stevenson). He’s the truth. I think he definitely has a chance to do good things in the league. He’s got real good skill. He’s not as athletic as he should be but everything else is right there. Oh! The kid Eric Gordon from Indiana. He’s the truth. I’ll take him on my team right now. I wish they would let young teens become professional athletes because this kid is ready.

MT: Do you see good things in store for you and the team? Are you reinvigorated playing in Sacramento? I thought conceivably you could have been one of the top MVP candidates the way you turned that team around.

RA: I think either Jermaine O’Neal or I should have won the award a couple of years back when we had the best record in the league. Steve Nash led his team to the best record and he won. It was him and Amare Stoudemire. I love Kevin Garnett–that’s my man–but the year he won it we had the best record.

They change the way they give out the MVP award every year.

I should have won MVP and Defensive Player of the Year that year.

You don’t get max money for hustling. That’s the reason why I started scoring. I don’t like to shoot fade away jumpers. I can do it though. I don’t want to play like that. I like to pass the ball and play defense. That’s not going to get you maximum money. You have to score and do all this other stuff. When I came in here, people didn’t really see the effect I had. I should have been 1st Team All NBA. They just didn’t want to give me those accolades you know. It’s alright, we had a good season that year. Bonzi Wells stepped it up. He probably would have been 1st team all playoffs or whatever.

I can’t wait for the day that I can play the way I want to play and people will respect that as a max player. I hope I can be in a situation where I don’t have to go out and average eighteen points. I want to average a little twelve points, nine or ten rebounds and a lot of hustle. It just seems like I have to go out there and score the ball just to show people that I have some skills. I can be very effective that way, but I like to share. I like to share the limelight.

I keep telling Kevin Martin that he’s the best player on our team. He keeps telling me that I am. I tell him to go out there and average 24 points and he gets his twenty and that is cool. I just want to win. I could care less about the other stuff.

MT: One last question brotha. What’s it like playing for the Maloofs and what do you expect out of the Kings this year?

RA: It’s cool playing for the Maloofs. They are different than other owners. They came to my hood last summer. Then we went to another hood. You don’t get to see billionaires in the projects without bodyguards. I respect that to the fullest. Playing for them has just been an honor.

I think if we would have kept Rick Adelman we would have been an elite team. They got rid of Adelman and got rid of Eric Mussleman. I think he wasn’t ready for the type of players he had on the team. He’s a really good person. He loves his family. He always has his family with him. I love Eric Mussleman. He’s like a brotha to me.

Reggie Theus wants to win. He wants to have a big impact. I think he has the ability to do it. He was a great player in this league. In my opinion, great players make great coaches.

I’m really looking forward to this season!

One Love to all, we out!

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