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Ron Artest will raffle off his new NBA championship ring

By Michael Martinez and Thelma Gutierrez, CNN
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Artest raffle to help fight mental illness
  • The NBA bad boy credits a psychologist with turning around his life
  • Now Ron Artest wants to raise money for youths who can't afford mental health care
  • He and the Los Angeles Lakers just received their championship rings Tuesday
  • Artest: "Having someone to talk to is very important"

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- NBA player Ron Artest, who gained infamy in 2004 when he jumped into the stands and punched a fan during a game-stopping brawl between fans and players, is seeking public redemption by raffling off his new NBA championship ring for charity.

The proceeds, which he hopes will exceed $1 millon, will be used to fund mental health services for youths who can't afford the counseling.

Artest became a poster boy for NBA bad behavoir after the 2004 melee, which resulted in his being suspended for 73 games, amounting to a loss of about $6 million in salary, he said. Artest was then playing with the Indiana Pacers, against the home team Detroit Pistons.

Upon his return to the NBA, Artest bounced around from the Sacramento Kings to the Houston Rockets and eventually landing with the Los Angeles Lakers, which won the NBA championship last season.

It was during the victory celebration that Artest publicly credited a mental health professional with turning his life around, and now he wants to further public acceptance for people in need of mental health care.

His court-order anger management therapy transformed him, he said.

"A great psychologist made me reach deep, deep into my lies, deep, deep into my vices. Then I had to tell my wife everything. That totally changed my life," Artest said, who's a father of four.

Video: Ron Artest champions cause

As one of the league's premier defenders, Artest made few excuses for his admittedly aggressive behavior, but then a secret slipped out.

In front of the largest global TV audience ever for an NBA final game, Artest surprised viewers with an announcement: "I want to thank my psychiatrist."

With those words, he opened up his personal life, and as a sports celebrity, he took a step toward destigmatizing mental health care, observed Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-California. Napolitano enlisted the help of the NBA star to push the Mental Health in Schools Act, which would provide $200 million in funding for on-site counseling for students with mental health issues.

Artest is also an aspiring rapper.

In a recent CNN interview, he revealed that while he publicly thanked a psychiatrist, he actually sees a psychologist.

"I didn't know the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist," he said.

"Having someone to talk to is very important. And there's no shame in asking for help," Artest said.

When he was 13, his parents split up. "As a kid, I had a bad temper," Artest said. "As an adult, I was a bad father, and I had to speak to somebody about that."

Artest kicked off his online raffle Wednesday night with a scheduled appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live."

Wealthy celebrities have offered to buy his ring outright, but Artest wanted all fans to have a chance at winning his ring. So he decided to hold an online raffle in which all bidders will enjoy a fair shot at the ring.

He and his teammates received their rings in a ceremony Tuesday evening before their game against the Houston Rockets in Los Angeles.

Artest said he will try not to wear his first and only NBA championship ring, so that the raffle winner will be the first person to put on the diamond-encrusted ring.

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