The Knicks were nowhere in sight, but there was still a bit of New York in the air during Game Seven of the NBA Finals.
St. John's has sent better players and bigger contributors than Ron Artest to the NBA. Chris Mullin and Dick McGuire saw to that. Artest isn't the first to win a title, not even the first to win a title on a Phil Jackson coached team, as Bill Wennington beat him to that particular punch. And though he incited a riot in Detroit, Artest can't even lay claim to most nefarious alumni with Jayson Williams serving time for killing a man.
But Artest can now lay claim to the single biggest moment for any St. Johns product at the NBA level. His three pointer from the corner a minute to play helped bury the Celtics and was a bigger shot than any other hit by a former member of the Redmen or Red Storm. It was a fitting end to the night for Artest, who carried the Lakers for much of the night while Kobe Bryant tried to outdo John Starks's 1994 performance of shooting infamy.
Maybe that's why he was so damned happy after the game. We already knew Artest gave a helluva postgame interview. After his put-back shot beat the Suns in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals, Artest gave Queensbridge more publicity than the housing project ever got before, and given Nas's shout-outs that's saying something, by continually saying "Queensbridge" and finally forcing TNT clotheshorse Craig Sager to say the name as well.
He topped that performance on Thursday night, though. His postgame interview with Doris Burke was a thing of both unbridled joy and barely bridled lunacy as Artest thanked everybody in his hood, his warriors, his family and, finally, his therapist in a bravura performance worthy of the instant and widespread reaction it caused on Twitter and in living rooms nationwide.
Then, ever the showman, Artest switched gears and started plugging his new single before finally ceding the microphone and camera to someone far less interesting.
He wasn't done either. Artest then went to the press conference with his family in tow where he played with reporters for 10 minutes while not really bothering to answer any of their questions. Artest was bubbly, like a little kid, and there was absolutely no sign of the menace that Artest has been known for since that night at the Palace.
There was good reason for all the joy. He rescued the entire Game Seven. One of the few players who hadn't been to the championship round before, Artest was about the only guy who didn't play like he was terrified by the spotlight on Thursday night. His three and his interviews will be the lasting memories of a night that was threatening to crown an NBA champion simply because the rulebook required naming someone the winner.
Maybe that was the New York in him or maybe it was just the work of a good therapist but, either way, we'll return the thank you to Artest for saving Game Seven.