Some athletes drink Gatorade, others prefer water. Ron Artest once had his own unique halftime beverage of choice.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Sporting News, the mercurial Lakers forward admitted he used to drink alcohol during halftime of games played when he was with the Chicago Bulls from 1999-2002.
“I used to drink Hennessy … at halftime,” Artest says in the interview. “I (kept it) in my locker. I’d just walk to the liquor store (near the stadium) and get it.”
In addition to the drinking revelation, Artest — who also called himself “one of the best defenders to ever play basketball” — opened up on a wide variety of topics, including past alcohol and marijuana use while in college at St. John’s, the infamous brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills in 2004, why he was traded from the Indiana Pacers in 2006 and his belief that NBA referee Joey Crawford cost the Houston Rockets in their seven-game playoff series last season.
No members of the Bulls organization, past or present, were reached for comment in the article.
Artest’s former head coach at St. John’s, Fran Fraschilla (currently an ESPN college basketball analyst), expressed surprise at Artest’s comments about his alcohol and drug abuse while in school.
“It’s a surprise because every day at practice, he came out in a mood to play. He came out in a basketball rage,” said Fraschilla. “He was fully committed; he wanted to let our upperclassmen know that he was the alpha male. It never came up that he had any sort of a problem with alcohol. This is the first I’ve heard of it.”
Known by many as one of the NBA’s most unpredictable personalities (he recently appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live in nothing but underwear), Artest also shared his thoughts candidly on many other topics:
On why his marriage with the Pacers (where Artest played from 2002-06) never worked out: “I could’ve stayed at Indiana my whole career, but I said I wanted to be traded. I was getting more stable, but I was still unstable and I was a bad teammate. They had to get rid of me.”
On the brawl in Detroit, which cost Artest 73 games and $7 million in salary: “It wasn’t my fault. … I don’t see anything I could have done different. The only thing I could have done was have God pause time so I could have said, ‘Oh, look, you’re about to run in some stands, so stop.’ ”
On Ben Wallace, the Pistons center whom Artest fouled hard to ignite the brawl that included fans in the stands: “I see Ben, I’m on my guard now. I’m always in the mood to fight him. … I’ll get suspended 10 games, 15 games (because) I’ll just fight him right there. It won’t go into the stands.”
On the reason for the Rockets’ loss to the Lakers in the 2009 Western Conference playoffs: “(Referee) Joey Crawford basically said, ‘Who cares about the Houston Rockets? Kobe Bryant is on the floor.’ ”
On his plans to eventually try professional boxing: “I started training two years ago. In four years, I’m going to try to have my first fight.”
Artest has played for the Bulls, Pacers, Kings, Rockets and Lakers in an 11-year NBA career. #shoutout foxsports