The Education of Ron Artest

Artest sits down with a former elementary school classmate to talk about his childhood.

Ron Artest loved recess as a kid. At his elementary school, P.S. 122, after lunch students would either fill the auditorium to watch movies or empty into the yard behind the cafeteria and run wild. It depended on the weather. But rain or shine, the youngster known as Ron-Ron was happy. When indoors, he was entertained by DTV: Pop & Rock, which was a VHS compilation of songs from the 1950s set to Disney cartoons. (His favorite was Sheb Wooley’s “The Purple People Eater.”) He preferred, however, playing handball or punchball in the massive schoolyard. And that was where I broke up a fight between Ron and a friend of mine in the fourth grade.

Kosta* was a tough, stocky Greek kid with serious pluck, but this was a mismatch. Ron had him beat on height, reach and sheer aggression. “Ron was bothering my cousin and I went to defend her,” Kosta says today. “Then he punched me.” Basically, Ron hit Kosta and Kosta hit the floor. “Ron dropped him like a sack of potatoes,” remembers John Castellano, a witness to the scrap. Afterward, Ron stood tall breathing heavy, emphasizing his exhale. His lower jaw jutted out and his arms were extended, balled into fists. I stepped between him and Kosta, who was still slumped against a fence. “Thomas,” Ron seethed. “You don’t understand. You don’t understand.”

It’s a good read.

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