The 2009 Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and the Rockets are remembered for some heated battles, mainly between Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest, now known as Metta Sandiford-Artest. The Lakers would persevere and go on to win the championship that year, but Artest still managed to make it hard for Kobe, making the game extraordinarily psychical and chippy. After Game 2, which was maybe even the most heated one, Artest shared a crazy story from his childhood that made the game played that night seem soft.
The Lakers would win Game 2 111-98 in front of their crowd to even up the series at 1-1, but it was apparent we were in for a long series full of heated battles.
After the game, one of the Rockets' best players and most notorious 'bad boys' of the NBA, then named Ron Artest, explained why all the physicality, chirping, and dirty play wasn't that bad, comparing it to a game from his childhood:
"I understand it's the playoffs. I remember when I used to play back home in the neighborhood, it was always games like that. I remember one time it was, one of my friends I was playing basketball with was winning the game. It was so competitive, they broke the leg from the table and threw it, and it went right through his heart, and he died right on the court. So I'm accustomed to playing basketball really rough. I'm used to fighting on the court."
Ron Artest, Los Angeles Times
A lot of the reporters and media at the time thought Artest was joking or just talking nonsense, but a bit of investigating proved his story holds water.
A 1991 Associated Press article from the New York Times archive shows how a 19-year old kid from Queens got stabbed in the back during a basketball game. Apparently, a fight over the score ensued, with about 40 players and fans from the crowd getting into it. Unfortunately, in the crowd, Llyod Newton, who was Artest's friend, got stabbed and killed on the scene.
The killer would get charged with second-degree murder in a horrible situation for anyone witness, let alone a 12-year old Artest. So when he told the story after Game 2 and explained how it's really nothing compared to this game, Artest wasn't lying. It wasn't easy for Artest to come from such a tough childhood and background, but he still made it out and became a notable NBA player despite all his mishaps.