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Queensbridge turns out for native son, Lakers’ Ron Artest

At a high point in the 2010 NBA Western Conference Finals, Los Angeles Laker and Long Island City native Ron Artest scored a rebound as the buzzer went off, winning game five for the Lakers against the Phoenix Suns May 27. In his moment of victory, Artest did not forget his hometown and exclaimed “Queensbridge!” in his post-game interview.

Two months and one NBA championship for the Lakers later, the residents of the Queensbridge Houses got the opportunity to show Artest they had not forgotten him.

Hundreds of residents came out to see Artest as he visited Queensbridge last Thursday to receive a Citation from the City of New York and a Community Recognition Award from the residents and East River Development Alliance.

“This is special,” Artest said of the ERDA award, “because it came from you all.”

Artest, 30, was born in Queensbridge in 1979. He lived on 10th Street and then moved to 12th Street, and remembers playing basketball with his father when he was young.

“We used to play at that court there on 12th Street,” he said.

He attended high school at La Salle Academy in Manhattan, then went on to St. John’s University, where the Chicago Bulls selected him to play as part of the 1999 NBA Draft. Since then he has played for the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets before going to the Lakers.

In his speech to members of the community, Artest emphasized to the children present the value of getting an education to succeed in life, but also the value of asking for help when needed.

“All you kids out there who want to play ball or do music or be an analyst, it takes a team,” Artest said.

He said when he was 13, he went to free counseling offered in the projects to control his temper, and recently went to a psychologist when he realized he was not playing basketball as well as he wanted to and wanted to mitigate how upset he felt because of it.

“If I can go out and ask for help, don’t feel bad,” he said.

Artest also talked about the private tuition he has provided for students.

“The kids are selected based on a few factors, including having a minimum of 80 percent average in grades; having above-average athletic ability if their grades aren’t sufficient; they have to have done work in/for the community; and be basically good kids who are trying to stay out of trouble and work for something better in life,” Artest’s publicist, Heidi Buech, said in an e-mail.

Two of those children spoke at the event and thanked Ron for all he had done for them. Jamel Williams, who was accepted at Liberty University, said the scholarship was extra inspiration to succeed.

“[I] had to do it not only for myself, but also for him,” Williams said.

Anfernee Edwards, 14, who has participated in the basketball tournaments Artest has held in Queensbridge and played basketball with Artest and his son, said it was exciting to see Artest back in the community.

“It’s amazing,” Edwards said. “A lot of people from the ‘ghetto’ don’t get as far as he did.”

Bishop Mitchell Taylor, president and founder of ERDA and senior pastor of Center of Hope International, praised Artest for all he had done for the community.

“We could not be prouder to call Ron one of our own,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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