Artest Planning Massive Charitable Gift

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December 10, 2010; Source: Sacramento Bee | Ron Artest seems to be on the charitable giving version of a runner’s high. Last month, we wrote about the L.A. Lakers forward’s plan to raffle off his second NBA championship ring for charity. He hoped to raise a $1 million to give to mental health charities.

Now comes word that he is planning to donate at least half of his 2011-2012 salary to charity. For most NBA players, next year might be the year of an owners’ lockout to undo the collective bargaining agreement. Artest, meanwhile may voluntarily part with half or even more of this scheduled $6.79 million salary.

The ring raffle has raised a bit less than $464,525 as of last week, but the raffle still has a couple of weeks to go. Artest told Dan Patrick in the December 13 Sports Illustrated that he has never worn the ring because, “I didn’t want to spoil it, and I didn’t want to get any second doubts, so I haven’t worn it.”

A lot of the charity-talk from celebrities and pro athletes sounds completely artificial—words inserted by agents and publicists for image buffing—but with Artest, the charity-talk sounds completely authentic. OK, Artest is the guy who lost $7 million when he was suspended for 73 regular season games and 13 playoff games after pummeling Pistons fans in Detroit. Yes, he showed up on the Jimmy Kimmel show unusually attired, stripping down to boxers and shoes at one point (video here and here). And now Artest is talking about trying his hand at pro football when his contract with the Lakers expires.

But his commitment to charity doesn’t seem crazy. It seems Artest has found his calling, something that motivates him even more than his shut-down defense on the court. For him, charity seems to really be a rush, a really good kind of high.—Rick Cohen