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An Enigma In the Hall Of Infamy

Artest has remained friends with Holdsclaw, who said the enraged player shown on television does not square with her portrayal of a "committed dude," who returned to the neighborhood to give his time and money.

"Sometimes people take him the wrong way," Holdsclaw said. "He's loyal to the extreme and competitive to the extreme. It's just like he sort of lost it for a second."

Ron Artest is restrained following a fight with fans at a game in Detroit on Nov. 19. He was suspended for the season and could lose $5 million in salary. (Duane Burleson -- AP)

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In a telephone interview last week, Ron Artest Sr. called his son "a good man and a very generous man."

"I'm not happy about it but at same time I'm happy he didn't get hurt," Artest Sr. said. "I'm sorry the way they came at him. You corner him and he'll fight back. He responded and defended himself and everyone can see that from the tapes. Or maybe they're blinded."

Intensity vs. Desperation

Many in the field of sports psychology and sports psychiatry worry that anger-management counseling for professional athletes -- and other psychological treatment, including medication -- are viewed as counterproductive to the goals of pro franchises. Coaches and general managers, they contend, would rather not dissect a player's emotional and mental state if it snuffs out the fire that triggers aggressive play.

While coaching Artest in Indiana, Isiah Thomas, now the New York Knicks' team president, said, "Ron does so many positive things that I don't want to take away from his intensity."

"I run into that kind of thinking, 'You're going to take away the intensity,' " said Paul Baard, a sports psychologist at Fordham University in New York who has worked extensively with athletes wanting to contain anxiety leading to emotion-driven reactions.

"But that's not the intensity you want. One intensity comes out of a self-drive. The other one is a desperate kind of intensity, 'You're not going to 'diss' me, I'm a star.' It's psychological. When a player's primary source of self-worth is tied up with being a star athlete, any threat to that status, real or imagined, becomes psychologically life-threatening."

Baard believes a sort of "psychological fusion," happened to Artest the moment he was hit by that cup.

While not condoning the act, analysts and former players Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley also said they understood what Artest did.

"It's high time people know the complexity of this individual instead of the spin," Speede, the family friend, said. "I'm not trying to glamorize public housing -- but it's not a ticket for delinquency. It shouldn't be synonymous with a behavior pattern.

"What is reflected here is we're seeing manifestation of how we're really thought of in white America. How white males view black athletes -- how dare this man think he can walk away to make a rap album? They go to these games to insult people.

"The depth of the insults is ridiculous. Everyone [in the league] has been told to accept this on a nightly basis. And there is no price on dignity."

According to court records filed in New York and Illinois, Artest has had a number of scrapes with the law. The most major off-court transgression stemmed from a domestic incident two years ago.

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