November 13, 1979
Queensbridge, New York, United States
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Though he was one of the NBA's best defenders, professional basketball player Ron Artest quickly developed a reputation for being one of the game's most vitriolic and confrontational stars. Born on Nov. 13, 1979 in Queens, NY, Artest was raised in the projects and played basketball for La Salle Academy, a private school in Manhattan. From there, he attended St. John's University, where he played small forward from 1997-99 and helped the Red Storm reach the Elite Eight in the NCAA Division I Basketball Championship tournament. He was selected by the Chicago Bulls as the 16th overall pick in the 1999 draft, and played two and a half seasons in the Windy City, where he averaged 12.5 points per game. Halfway through the 2001-02 season, Artest was traded to the Indiana Pacers, where he had one of his best-ever seasons in 2003-04, averaging 18.3 points per game and making the All-Star Game reserve team while also being named Defensive Player of the Year.It was while playing for the Pacers that Artest was a central figure in what has been dubbed the worst brawl in NBA history. The fight started with less than a minute to play in a game Indiana was leading by double digits. Artest delivered a hard foul on Detroit Piston forward Ben Wallace as he went in for a lay up. Wallace immediately reacted by pushing Artest, leading to a scuffle between both benches. As flared tempers began to cool, fans threw beer at Artest as he was lying down on the scorer's table waiting for the melee to end. He jumped to his feet and attacked the fans in their seats, with several other Pacers joining the fracas. After being dragged back onto the court, Artest - who at this point was largely away from the action - threw a hard punch at a fan yelling at him from the sidelines. Artest was quickly escorted off the court by one of his coaches amidst loud boos and more thrown beer. As the chief instigator in the brawl, Artest was the most heavily punished. He was suspended for the remainder of the season - a total of 86 games - and lost almost $5 million in salary. Artest also faced criminal charges and was sentenced to one year of probation, community service, and anger management counseling.In the aftermath of arguably the ugliest brawl in modern day sports, Artest requested a trade from the Pacers, which left several of his teammates feeling betrayed. He eventually found himself on the Sacramento Kings, where he helped the struggling team make the playoffs, only to be suspended for two games for throwing an elbow into the head of Manu Ginóbili of the San Antonio Spurs. In 2008, Artest was traded again, this time landing on the Houston Rockets, where he found himself in trouble with the league during the playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks and later the Los Angeles Lakers. The following season, the Lakers signed Artest to a hefty deal worth over $30 million and proceeded to shine in the playoffs, where he had career games against the Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics en route to earning his first NBA Championship ring. Despite his reputation as a brawler, Artest contributed time and money to causes like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and several mental health awareness charities. Meanwhile, in June 2011, it was reported that Artest had petitioned the L.A. County Superior Court to legally change his name to Metta World Peace. Two months later, it was announced that Artest would be one of the contestants on the fall 2011 season of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ), joining the likes of David Arquette, Nancy Grace, Ricki Lake and Chaz Bono.