Game Notes: Lakers at Pistons
A battle against the heavyweights.
by Eric Woodyard
The heavyweight division of boxing was once considered to be the most respected division of the sport. When individuals competed for the “Heavyweight Championship of the World” it was almost as if they were fighting for the most prized possession in all of sports, in a heavyweight championship belt.
As the years passed, this division has been on a gradual decline as fighters in this weight class have went from some of the most popular athletes in the world to fans not knowing who even fights in the division. By the way, can anyone name me five relevant fighters in the division? I didn’t think so.
This is why when Los Angeles Lakers’ forward Ron Artest was quoted in an early November interview by Sporting News as saying he would still want to fight Ben Wallace, it got me thinking: “Who would win in a heavyweight boxing match between Ben Wallace and Ron Artest?”
In the interview, Artest stated that: “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.”
He also revealed his intentions on wanting to become a professional boxer: “I started training two years ago,” he said to SN. “In four years, I’m going to try to have my first fight.”
After receiving a lot of flack after these comments, Artest later clarified his comments on a Chicago radio station.
“Ben is cool,” Artest told a Chicago radio station, ESPN.com reported. “I admire how he plays defense.”
“I don’t want to fight Ben Wallace in no street. I don’t want to fight Ben Wallace on no basketball court. But after our careers are over, I will fight Ben Wallace in the boxing ring. But not out of hatred. But out of it would be a good boxing match. So don’t look forward to me fighting Ben on a basketball court, because that’s not going to happen.”
In a response to Artest’s challenge, Wallace was quoted from ESPN.com prior to a Pistons-Bulls game as saying:
“He said he wants to fight me?” Wallace asked reporters
“Yeah,” a reporter responded.
“Well, [you] need to test him and see if he’s still drinking,” Wallace said.
In a game that was billed as the “Lakers at Pistons” on a Sunday afternoon in Auburn Hills, Mich. on December 20, 2009; the marquee matchup should have been “Artest v.s. Wallace” as this game marked their first showdown between the two since Artest’s comments last month.
Artest was relatively loose as he chilled in the visitor’s locker room at the Palace of Auburn Hills. He was draped in black and purple Lakers practice gear and lacing up his black, white and purple Peak sneakers, clowning with teammates, when I approached him for an interview.
SLAM: I heard that you were quoted a while ago as saying that you and Ben Wallace should go through a sparring session, can you elaborate on that for me [Laughs].
Ron Artest: It was just something funny, just something fun. I just think it would be fun, you know? nothing personal and I think it would raise a lot of money too for charity.
SLAM: So you’re serious about that, you would really wanna do that?
RA: If it’s fun enough! If it’s like enjoyable enough for the fans and ourselves to raise some money than why not?
SLAM: Are you a big boxing fan?
RA: Yeah, definitely.
SLAM: Who’s your favorite boxer?
RA: Manny [Pacquiao] and Floyd [Mayweather] right now. That’s everybody’s right now so that’s obvious.
SLAM: I know everybody’s been asking you about coming back to the Palace and playing against Ben in the Palace for one of the first times…how do you feel about that? Is it gonna be a lot of emotions?
RA: Oh, I didn’t play against Ben in the Palace yet? (looks in deep thought)
SLAM: I mean after playing with different teams and then coming back…
RA: Yeah I did. Hold on, I played in Indiana, came back [pauses]…got traded…then got traded to Sacramento. I missed one game…Ben (pauses)…I don’t know? Is this my first time?
SLAM: I’m not exactly sure…It should be one of them though…
RA: I don’t know, it don’t matter.
SLAM: You don’t really think about that coming back…
RA: Yeah [laughs].
SLAM: Do the fans usually heckle you when you come back?
RA: They used to heckled me a lot before when I came back. Detroit is Detroit, you know?
SLAM: I know you had to do a lot of community service after that (incident), do you feel like you connected with the fans more by doing those types of things? Do you feel like that made you look better to Detroit?
RA: I don’t care about looking better to anybody. I don’t care about what people think about me at all!
SLAM: The final question I have for you is how would you attack if y’all did have that sparring session?
RA: I don’t know, I would have to call Freddie Roach. I would have to go to Freddie Roach and then ask Freddie what should I do (laughs).
In the Pistons locker room, Ben Wallace chilled in his corner locker as he watched football highlights on the big screen television on ESPN. He declined to offer any comments on the fight but did say this: “I ain’t trying to get caught up in that stuff. I don’t fight or box, but I will smack the sh** outta somebody!”
While most fight fans have become accustomed to hearing the sweet sounds of Michael Buffer or Jimmy Lennon Jr. announcing the fighters introductions, for this fight they would have to settle with Pistons P.A. announcer John Mason.
“Basketball fans from the great state of Mee-sheee-Ghan, we are now here at the premiere sports and entertainment venue, The Palace! On the big stage, under the bright lights, they come to play NBA basketball in Deee-Troit. National City Bank presents…the Deee-Troit Pistons!!”
“As we now honor America with the singing of the national anthem being performed by the group seen on the hit TV show ‘America’s Got Talent’ this is Mosaic.”
After the performance from the group, Mason then introduced Ron Artest and the LA Lakers. Saving Artest’s introduction for last, Mason said.
“From St. John’s, number 37, the 6-7 forward Ron Artest!”
Artest heard boo’s as he entered the ring. In the other corner, Mason also saved his opponent, Ben Wallace, for last as he was introduced as:
“At center, Pistons’ six! From Virginia Union at 6-9. Ready to defend! BBBBBB-Ben WWWWWW-Wallace!!” (Bells ring and fire sparks into the air from the backboard.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Artest and the Lakers entered the center of the ring (aka court) first as they awaited for the Pistons. As Wallace approached Artest, they simply greeted each other with a slight elbow bump to show their appreciation for one another.
With the fight set at four rounds with each round lasting at 12 minutes a piece, the fighters both knew that they would have more than enough time to make their mark.
Artest came out swinging as he poured in 7 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound and 3 steals.
Wallace was on the counter attack as he chipped in 0 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal.
Winner: Ron Artest!
Artest chipped in 3 more points, 2 more assists, 2 extra boards and another steal.
Wallace scored 1 bucket and grabbed 2 boards.
Winner: Ron Artest!
Artest scored 4 points, 1 steal, 2 assists, and grabbed 2 boards.
Wallace assisted on 2 plays and grabbed 4 rebounds.
Winner: Despite this being Wallace’s most active round…it still goes to Ron Artest!
Artest chipped in 3 more assists and one more steal.
Wallace didn’t do much of anything.
Winner: Ron Artest!
After tallying up the scores, Artest finished the night with 14 points, 6 steals, 9 nine assists, and 5 rebounds. Wallace scored 1 point, 1 steal, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists.
By way of unanimous decision, the winner had to be Ron Artest! I’m not sure if this would be decision if this had been a real fight, but based on stats, he easily dominated.
The Lakers also defeated the Pistons 93-81 with Kobe Bryant chipping in 28 points, 5 steals, and 4 assists improving their overall record to 22-4.
**And to answer Ron Artest’s question, this meeting was just their first back AT the Palace of Auburn Hills since the “Malice at the Palace” on November 19, 2004.