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An Enigma In the Hall Of Infamy

In May 2002, Artest's girlfriend at the time, Jennifer Palma, alleged that he grabbed her around the neck and by the arm during an argument. No charges were filed, but Artest turned himself in after Palma told police Artest had violated a family court order of protection by leaving her a threatening phone message.

"If you don't call me back, I'm going to have to hurt you," Artest said then, according to the complaint. Artest's lawyers said Palma sought increased child-support payments.

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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Charges of harassment and criminal contempt were later dropped, and Artest underwent anger-management counseling. Palma's mother, Wilfreda Palma, 50, said Artest and her daughter have remained friends despite what happened two years ago, and she confirmed Artest is making child-support payments on behalf of Jeron, her grandson. "Ron loved his child," said Wilfreda Palma. "He's very good with his children. Sometimes he was late. Sometimes he didn't show up. But he loves his son, Jeron."

Jeron is one of Artest's four children. His wife, Kimisha, has three children by Artest. A 2002 magazine disclosure of his financial generosity to family and associates portrays a millionaire who admitted to spending more lavishly than his means.

Mark Bartelstein, who was Artest's agent until they parted ways in August, said his former client was in disarray when Bartelstein began working with Artest five years ago.

"This is not a person who is diabolical or plotting to hurt people," Bartelstein added. "It's unfair for these amateur psychologists who want to make all these diagnoses for Ron and they don't know him. He's not a mean-spirited guy. Ron is this: When he wakes up in the morning he figures out what he wants to do and goes and does it."

Bartelstein conceded that Artest wanted to sign an extension as quickly as possible with the Pacers, who rewarded him with a six-year, $42 million deal in November of 2002. By all-star standards, the deal is among the league's greatest bargains. One of the top 20 players in the game makes less than role players such as Adonal Foyle and Brian Cardinal.

Life After the Fight

The life of an NBA exile is not horrible, Artest said. He has more time to spend with family, to promote Allure's record -- "I need to get some more advance orders and I'm coming out with my own soon," he promised -- and to think about the chaos he helped incite. He understands the incident will go down in NBA lore, but then, so have many incidents involving him.

Most have been more off-kilter than dangerous. Like the time when he applied for a job at Circuit City in Chicago -- while a member of the Bulls. Artest wanted to work on Sundays so he could reap the employee electronics discount.

There was also the day he gouged the Berto Center practice floor in Chicago, hurling a back-stretching apparatus weighing a couple of hundred pounds across the court in anger. Or the time he rifled a rack of basketballs, dodge-ball style, inches over terrified teammates' heads at halftime of a game.

He once in a rage lifted a 500-pound weight out of its moorings. The day he was traded from Chicago to Indiana, in March 2002, he pulled a framed picture of himself off the wall of the Bulls' practice facility. "They won't be needing this anymore," he said, gleefully.

Artest said some of the stories surrounding his past have clearly been embellished. For example, two teammates said they recalled Artest performing push-ups in the nude in the Bulls' locker room.

"Naked push-ups?" he said, laughing. "I don't remember that one. But put it in there. That's really going to sell my album."

Staff writer Greg Sandoval and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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