For the better part of 20 years, Ron Artest has been one of the more fascinating figures in American sports. Through his battles on the court, his controversies on and off the court, and everything in between, he has been someone that always been a source of discussion. In "Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story," director Johnny Sweet explores everything in and about Ron's life.
Queensbridge plays a huge role in the documentary. The documentary begins with the War on Drugs and the crack epidemic of the 1980s. The violence in the community infiltrated Ron's life as he witnessed his parents have violent incidents between one another and in turn, resorted to violence whenever conflict of any kind arose between himself and his peers in school. At a young age, Ron was encouraged to pick up a sport by a counselor, and he was able to channel all of his anger and energy onto the basketball court. Ron was able to channel his energy onto the court and become an elite high school and college player, but Ron could go from 0 to 100 real quick and the violence and anger inside of him always found a way to show itself.
Hell on Earth
"Individuals raised in households with conflict... can contribute to an individual's way of coping with issues in adulthood. Anxiety and depressive symptoms are often responses to encountering stress and trauma throughout childhood." - Dr. Santhi Periasmy, Ron Artest's psychologist
When Ron got to the NBA, he gradually grew into an elite player, but the anger issues that presented themselves in high school and at St. John's continued to reappear. It was in Chicago where Ron first became a self-admitted sore loser and when you combine that with the aggression and a "hatred" of other players that drove him to be the best player he could be, you wind up with moments where Ron cost his team chances at a title due to his anger
The biggest moment where Ron cost his team was the Malice at the Palace. A lot had been written on that, including this great oral history Jonathan Abrams created at Grantland in 2012. This documentary adds more insight to the fight and its aftermath, and one thing that struck me in watching this portion was just how badly Artest handled himself in the moment and especially afterwards. As Stephen Jackson explained, with the game clearly decided and the Pacers established as the better team that night, it didn't make sense to commit such a hard foul. Ron cited his mentality of never allowing easy layups, which is fine, however, he should've known better at that moment. For the only time in the documentary, it felt like Artest wasn't holding himself accountable for how damaging his actions were.
One of the highlights of the documentary was Jermaine O'Neal. O'Neal was unflinchingly honest in how he felt about Ron, his actions, and his frustrations with how Ron carried himself as a teammate and person when they were both in Indiana. At times it felt uncomfortable to hear, but you could relate to how O'Neal felt at various points.
Although the Malice in the Palace is the flashpoint we all associate with Ron, the moment that changed his life actually came a few years later. In March of 2007, Artest was arrested following a domestic violence with his wife in Sacramento. It was here where Ron finally realized he had to do the hard work of addressing his anger and inner demons and work to put himself in a position where he wouldn't place himself at risk anymore. Artest didn't discuss what led up to this incident, but director Johnny Sweet talked about how he covered the incident in an interview on"The Right Time with Bomani Jones" (starts at the 25:50 mark)
The documentary builds up to this moment:
After a lifetime of hard work and bumps in the road, Artest reached the top of the NBA and played a huge role in winning a championship and beat his greatest nemesis (Paul Pierce) to boot in 2010. In his postgame interview, Artest thanked his Pacers teammates and apologized for short circuiting their championship opportunities with his actions. O'Neal mentioned that he wasn't happy for Artest in 2010 and that they had never even had a conversation at that point. It took a long time, but eventually the two men were able to fully discuss their issues and have begun building a relationship with one another.
I thought a lot about forgiveness and working to do right by people you've caused great harm. It takes a long time to reach a point where you're ready to forgive someone for what they've done to you. And as the offending party, it takes a lot of courage to do the work to heal yourself and make amends with the person you hurt. In watching Artest discuss how he worked to change his life, we see that the early interventions he attempted laid the groundwork for where he is now. As was mentioned, there's no magic pill that makes things right instantly. It's a lifelong project and Artest should always be commended for working on himself and using his resources and platform to help others who have gone through what he did.
Is it worth a watch?
Yes! At one hour and 46 minutes, the documentary covers a lot of ground and leaves you wanting more. It doesn't drag at any point and the contributions from all the parties interviewed make for an engrossing watch.
One thing I appreciated was the quotes from Artest's psychologist, Dr. Santhi Periasmy. They served as interludes to various sections of the doc and helped provide perspective on what we were watching and explained behaviors we see in our daily lives. Mental health is something a lot of us take for granted and I appreciate Sweet didn't stigmatize Artest's conditions or battles. It would've been easy to do so and I appreciate that he took the time to paint a full picture of Artest.
Bonus: The music!
One thing I loved about the documentary was the music and artists we saw throughout it. So in honor of that, I cooked up a playlist of the music and music video clips that appeared in the doc.