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Ron Artest's NBA ring raffle raises $120,000 so far

By Michael Martinez and Thelma Gutierrez, CNN
Ron Artest says the proceeds will be used to fund mental health services for youths who can't afford counseling.
Ron Artest says the proceeds will be used to fund mental health services for youths who can't afford counseling.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Online raffle was announced exclusively on "Larry King Live" on Wednesday night
  • Proceeds will be used to fund mental health services for youths
  • Ron Artest gained infamy in 2004 when he jumped into the stands and punched a fan
  • Winning ticket will be drawn on Christmas Day.

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- The online raffle for Ron Artest's NBA Championship ring has already raised a record $120,000 in less than 24 hours, according to Celebrities for Charity, the company that is organizing the raffle.

The online raffle was announced exclusively on "Larry King Live" on Wednesday night.

Within minutes, so many viewers swarmed ronartest.com to buy the $2 tickets that the website crashed.

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 million, will be used to fund mental health services for youths who can't afford the counseling.

Artest became a poster boy for NBA bad behavior 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 made a comeback with the Los Angeles Lakers, which won the NBA championship last season.

Video: Ron Artest to raffle ring
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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-ordered 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 and an aspiring rapper.

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."

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 actually wear the diamond-encrusted ring. The winning ticket will be drawn on Christmas Day.