Maybe it's time to stop poking fun at Ron Artest and start giving him his due.
He understands a problem when he sees it. And he's doing something about it, using himself as an example.
Artest, the often zany, always colorful, but sometimes unstable veteran forward with the Los Angeles Lakers, won his first NBA title this summer, the crowning moment in a roller-coaster, 11-year career.
Now he has stepped forward to address a much more serious issue. He will be selling his coveted NBA championship ring -- which he will get during a pregame ceremony Oct. 26 -- to start raising funds and raising awareness for the need to put more psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists in our public schools.
He made the ring announcement earlier this week at a Los Angeles area middle school, where he appeared with U.S. Rep. Grace F. Napolitano, author of the Mental Health in Schools Act, the federal legislation she is pushing.
Artest isn't afraid to admit he has worked with a psychiatrist. He has worked with a marriage counselor. He has taken anger management classes. And he is a better man for all of it.
At the interview podium moments after the Lakers won the NBA title -- making him a champion for the first time -- Artest made a point to thank the psychologist who had helped him through his problems.
Throughout his NBA career, he has been known as a talented but tempestuous player. He was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. Yet he also was suspended several times both before and afterward. When he played for Indiana, he was suspended for 73 games after igniting an ugly brawl between players and fans in Detroit when he charged into the stands and started punching. His legal troubles have included both domestic and animal abuse at his home.
"I've been through this first hand,'' Artest said earlier this week in an interview with NBA.com. "A lot of people made jokes. But who else better than Ron Artest to actually talk about his experiences and how therapy has helped him?"
Artest, who grew up in the housing projects of New York City, has seen first-hand -- and experienced -- students who needed and never received counseling for mental health issues.
He hopes to encourage others, of any age group, to seek help for emotional issues, raising awareness with both parents and students. According to the NBA.com report, a prominent sports psychologist estimated that 20-25 athletes in the NCAA Division I attempt suicide every year.
"I'm older now, so I think it's about time that I stop complaining about what people think of me, because it's more important than me,'' Artest said. "It's more about people that really need to hear this.''
Artest will announce soon the details of the auction he will use to sell his ring. Although he has waited an entire career to wear it -- and he celebrated more than anyone else with the Lakers when they won -- he won't ever wear the ring, preferring to save it for something more important.
"I'm never going to put it on,'' he said.