Vindication: The Saga of Ron Artest

He was always just the guy that was trying to fit in. Ron Artest was never one to be described as a team player, or the guy that anybody wants to play with. His skills as a defensive player were respected. That's it. His hard work has never seemed to pay off.

Most players in the NBA would have been fine to never play with the man that first arrived to the NBA spotlight with the "Brawl at the Palace." That fateful night, Artest was known as the man who couldn't ever hope to control his temper and the guy that nobody wanted to deal with.

Artest then finished up his career with the Pacers and embarked on a journey to discover exactly what it was that he could contribute to the NBA. He wanted to win. You could see it in his tenacity in chasing around the star player of the opposition while hungrily grabbing down rebounds like his life depended on it. Unfortunately, Artest has the kind of personality that people immediately frown upon.

He's different. And the Los Angeles Lakers are now more than okay with that.

In Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, Artest hit a lay-up at the buzzer to give the Lakers a 103-101 win. He has made his mark on one of the most storied franchises in sports.

But that's not all that Artest did. He cemented his place as a true competitor and a man that will do whatever it takes to get his team a win. Say what you want about the guy, but there's something admirable about his journey and how it's gone through extreme downs and now, extreme ups.

Obviously, if the Lakers win the championship, Artest will be looked as one of the best moves the Lakers ever made. Right up there with Pau Gasol. But you have to be proud of Artest for different reasons. Not only does he fit in with the Lakers, but for a guy whose personality has always been misunderstood by the media, this was exactly what he needed.

Artest made mistakes in the past but Lakers fans should be proud...

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