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Ron Artest joins the pantheon of Lakers miracle workers

Artest's winning basket against Phoenix, after catching a Kobe Bryant airball, ranks alongside Robert Horry's three-pointer against Sacramento in 2002 and Derek Fisher's '0.4' shot against San Antonio in '04 in annals of memorable (and unlikely) playoff moments in Lakers history.

May 28, 2010|Mark Heisler

It's a hard world to get a break in, although for some more than others.

If you're the Lakers, you can miss two shots in the final seconds of Game 4 in the 2002 Western Conference finals, with the Sacramento Kings about to go up 3-1, and see the rebound batted out to the only player who isn't going for it, who hits the winning three-pointer.

Only you, Robert Horry.

Or you can be down one with :00.4 left in San Antonio in 2004 after Tim Duncan's floating 20-footer, see your designed options taken away and inbound it to the only player who's open, who throws up an 18-foot half hook, which goes in.

Thanks, Derek Fisher.

Or you can take the worst shot in Lakers history — in the funniest moment in Lakers history, with so many fans yelling "N-o-o-o!" you could hear it on the replay — after which the coach reluctantly lets you stay in, so you're there to catch an airball and lay in the winning shot.

Welcome to the pantheon, Ron Artest.

No, really.

"I've moved on from there," said Artest, still otherworldly after all these years and, as he pointed out at Friday's practice, more used to being the villain than the hero.

"When I first made the shot, if you look at the tape, I really wasn't that happy.

"Then I saw my teammates coming to me — well, actually, I saw Kobe [Bryant] running to me, and I got real excited.

"I had to enjoy it with my teammates, but if it was up to me, I would have just went into the locker room and we'd move on."

Unfortunately, in moving on, Artest missed the fact they were practicing Friday, which was why he wasn't there when it started.

Asked whether Artest would be fined, Coach Phil Jackson said, "Oh yeah."

In any case, it was another memorable moment in Lakers history.

Whether it's because luck is the residue of design, as Branch Rickey proclaimed, fate seems to favor the fortunate.

The Celtics were so lucky in their heyday in the '50s and '60s, people started talking about their leprechaun and their parquet floor, where only they knew the dead spots.

Of course, they also had Red Auerbach, suspected of anything and everything, like turning off the Boston Garden air conditioning to melt the Lakers in Game 5 of the 1984 Finals.

Not that Lakers Coach Pat Riley was spooked, but at a practice there during the 1985 Finals, he had the water barrel emptied, in case someone had spiked it.

The Lakers, named for the Great Lakes, don't have much in the way of mythological characters.

However, they do have Jackson, who's 6-8 instead of 3-8 and isn't green but serves the same purpose as a leprechaun.

(Not that owner Jerry Buss should be superstitious, but the last time he let Phil leave, the franchise cratered.)

Typically, Artest's basket came at a key moment, when the Lakers needed it.

With the Western finals tied, 2-2, the Suns' Alvin Gentry coached despite an "upset stomach" after eating something that disagreed with it.

"It's very similar to college," Gentry said later, laughing. "Once you get it out of the system, everything's OK.

"It's like a Friday night frat party."

In a sign of the times, the video of Gentry getting it out of his system on the bench is all over cable TV and on YouTube.

Gentry's daughter Alexis has since scooped the world, tweeting that the problem was the fried artichokes her dad had for lunch.

Of course, by now the crawl on "SportsCenter" probably says "'s Chris Broussard confirms report that Alvin Gentry ate fried artichoke."

If the finish was more like a comedy routine than Duncan and Fisher trading dramatic shots in 2004, no one will forget this one, either.

Showing how Artest was going — he had missed five of six to that point — people didn't just yell "N-o-o-o!" when he put up that three-pointer with a new shot clock, lots of people yelled "N-o-o-o!" when he went up to take the shot just before it, a 17-footer.

The Suns then missed two three-point attempts as the ball kept bouncing out long to one of them, before Jason Richardson banked in the score-tying shot.

Unfortunately for the Suns, Richardson then neglected to box out Artest going to the board as Bryant launched his airball.

Hey, as far as the Lakers are concerned, it's a win and they're moving on.

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