No doubt about it, Ron Artest is up there with Allen Iverson as one of the most 'hood-beloved, realest basketball players to ever run the court in the NBA. Ron-Ron, as his fans and family call him, was keeping it so gully when he returned to New York he rode the F train from Manhattan to the 21st Queensbridge stop, his old stomping grounds.
"Today we rode the subway here," Ron said, standing in a neighborhood park on the 40th side of Vernon Avenue. "I wanted to make it special — my neighborhood represented me with an award, so we rode the train all the way down here, came off the regular, walked to get the award. It gave me memories just of going to school, South Academy, Second Avenue. I smelled that train station, 34th Street. I haven't been on that train in 13 years."
Ron was presented with an award in the middle of Queensbridge.
"Today we over in Queensbridge projects, biggest projects in America," he explained. "We're having a good day, good barbecue. I just got an award off of bringing home the championship and doing good things in the community. Today we gonna go to the park. Funk Flex is going to be there, EPMD, DJ Hot Day, [my artists] the Tru Warriors. I'm gonna be there. You gonna see a lot of performances. I did a song called 'Champion' last year. We're gonna walk you through the neighborhood ... shout-out to Nas, shout-out to Mobb Deep.
"It's great coming back as a champion," Artest continued, with DJ Hot Day spinning records on a huge stage standing on a baseball field. "So many things that Queensbridge has done with music ... basketball with Vern Flemming, Andy Walker a long time ago. Nas, Mobb Deep — this is another notch under our belt."
Artest endeared himself to viewers from his neighborhood by being vocal about his hometown pride, shouting out his Queensbridge home in post-game interviews.
"A lot of support," he said about what he experienced during the finals, in which the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics. "It was tough, because it was like being in a battle, being in a war — but [Queensbridge] stuck with me. They already know I was gonna come through. But a lot of people counted me out. From game to game, things kept changing. This is the most intense anything I've been a part of, the championship. To always represent my neighborhood, but never win [the championship], it was like I'm representing, but not really. So I got a chance to really represent and it was great.
"During the finals, it was dope," he added about shouting out his native soil. "You representing your 'hood. That was a sign that we never changed. That's gotta be one of the realest things — entertainment-wise, as far as keeping it 'hood — anyone has done. I'm glad to be at the forefront of that. I been representing my 'hood for a long time. The only thing that's new is that ring."
What do you think about Artest's dedication to his hometown? Let us know in the comments!