Former Houston Rockets forward Ron Artest recently explained why he elbowed James Harden in 2012, while also expressing regret.
Although Houston Rockets star guard James Harden has immersed himself as one of the greatest scorers in NBA history, it was the 2011-12 season that put Harden on the map. Harden and the Oklahoma City Thunder finished that season with the second-best record in the Western Conference, as they went 47-19.
The Thunder eliminated the Los Angeles Lakers within five games during the Western Conference Semifinal round, advancing to the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, who had no answer for Harden. The Houston Rockets superstar averaged 18.5 points on 60.9 percent from deep, while also netting 64.1 percent true shooting throughout the series.
But perhaps one of the most memorable moments from Harden that season took place during OKC’s April 22nd matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers, which was before the postseason even began. Harden was on the receiving end of a vicious elbow to the head, which came from former Houston Rockets forward Ron Artest, who was later known as Metta World Peace, and now goes by Metta Sandiford-Artest.
Artest was suspended for seven games for the incident, which many believed wasn’t severe enough at the time, considering his history, in particularly the role he played in the 2004 brawl between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, which became known as the “Malice at the Palace.”
Ron Artest explains why he elbowed Houston Rockets’ James Harden
The former Houston Rockets forward joined longtime NBA veterans Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes on Showtime’s All the Smoke podcast, and shared his version of what really transpired between him and Harden.
“This is what really happened. Mike Brown came to me and said, “Yo, I need more energy.” So I got a dunk and [screamed] ‘arghh!’ I was hyped. Too hyped.
And at this moment, James nudged me. It wasn’t that big, it was the same thing I did with Ben Wallace. I was like ‘get off me.’
I thought it would’ve been on the shoulder, like just rubbed ‘get off’. Not an elbow. I didn’t really hit Harden. He would’ve had a knot.”
Although Artest didn’t initially appear to be remorseful, he further explained how the incident affected him personally.
“That kind of hurt me alot. I hate that image, it’s one of my worst.”
Artest ultimately played five more seasons professionally after the incident, including the 2014-15 season internationally. Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets at the conclusion of that season, and has easily become one of the greatest players in franchise history.