Years ago, Metta Sandiford-Artest, then known as Ron Artest, was not only one of the NBA’s best defenders but also one of its best two-way players.
In fact, Brian Windhorst says that he was perhaps the only player who ever physically intimidated LeBron James.
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Sandiford-Artest was the No. 16 pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, and he spent his first couple of seasons with the rebuilding Chicago Bulls before being traded to the Indiana Pacers, a team that was emerging as a contender.
With the Pacers, he expanded his offensive production and became one of a handful of players that could lock down an opposing team’s star while scoring 20 points on any given night.
But it was there where he tarnished his reputation. He was the main figure in the horrific brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills in a game versus the Detroit Pistons early in the 2004-05 season. Sandiford-Artest was suspended for the rest of the season as a result, and afterward, it seemed almost no one wanted anything to do with him.
The next season, the Los Angeles Lakers decided to take a flyer on him. Contrary to the expectations of many, he was on his best behavior all year long and accepted a reduced role while helping them win the NBA championship.
Since then, Sandiford-Artest, who has changed his name more than once, has undergone one of the most radically positive image transformations in league history. He is now regarded as a good soul, and he has done lots of community work, especially in the area of mental health awareness.
Even at age 38, James continues to give many opposing players the business, and despite possessing an incredible amount of wear and tear, he is still one of the more physically gifted players in basketball. He may not be able to get past players at will, but in fast-break situations, he is still a fearsome force to be reckoned with.