2010 NBA playoffs: It's quite a rebound for Ron Artest and the Lakers in Game 5 against Suns
LOS ANGELES Ron Artest bear-hugged teammates as the horn sounded.
"Ron-Ron!" someone yelled from the Lakers bench. "Ron-Ron!"
He bear-hugged a dozen fans, many of whom stayed late at Staples Center to meet him outside the locker room.
He embraced everyone who had their arms raised and open for the unlikely guy who bailed Kobe Bryant and the Lakers out of Game 5.
"Thanks for letting me enjoy it," Artest said more than an hour after he put back Bryant's missed jumper at the buzzer of a pulsating victory over the crestfallen Phoenix Suns, who now stand on the ledge of playoff elimination.
What a finish. What a game. What a night for Ron-Ron, reborn on the court -- hugging everyone, having appropriate contact with people who pay to watch the game.
Nearly six years and three teams later, the guy once known as the worst human being in sports -- Mr. Malice at the Palace -- became the most famous and admired person east of the Hollywood Hills on Thursday night
Jack Nicholson and Jeremy Piven clapped for him.
Well, okay, after he banked home the game-winner. Before then, Ron-Ron was on bad-shot alert with some ill-timed three-point attempts.
"I don't why I left him in the game," Phil Jackson acknowledged amid laughs after the Lakers moved within a game of their third NBA Finals appearance in three years with a 103-101 victory. "I actually questioned it myself when I put him out there on the floor, and there he was. Made the key play."
On a night Jason Richardson banked in a three-point prayer with 3.5 seconds remaining to bring the Suns all the way from 18 down with 3 minutes 44 seconds left in the third quarter to 101-all, Artest's rebound and short banker released with 0.8 of a second left was one of the only things he did right all evening.
But then, that's what happens when you orbit Bryant and Jackson's universe; their grab for glory becomes yours. Osmosis from all that winning and those pressurized victories at the horn rubs off on everyone in purple and gold.