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Ron Artest and Me: Just a couple gym rats

BY KEVIN ALLEN

Sports Pros(e) Legend

There were two live roosters tooling around a patch of grass near my

car this morning. I live in an area of Los Angeles where one expects to

see small, groomed dogs and the occasional squirrel, but farm animals?

Nah …

Interestingly, the chicken encounter wasn’t the strangest moment of

my day. That distinction came when my fellow Sports Pros(e) co-creator

sent me a link to a TMZ post that depicted a smiling Ron Artest, hours

after beating the Suns on a last-second shot, at the same gym I

frequent nearly every day of my life.

The first time I saw Ron Artest working out at the club, I had two

thoughts: My first was, What is he doing here? My second was, Wow …

what a dedicated athlete.

The particular gym Artest frequents

is in a nondescript part of LA off the 405 and well out of the

limelight. In LA, you’re expected to be unimpressed by celebrities. The

more unimpressed by the presence of a celebrity, the cooler it makes

you. Naturally, Artest goes widely ignored when he’s at the gym — save

for the occasional opportunist who bugs him for a photo and then

schleps it to TMZ.

Artest is not the only celebrity member at this particular gym, and

he’s definitely not the biggest name to ever utilize its hamstring

machine. While it’s definitely not the most baller gym in LA, it’s

certainly several tiers above Bally’s. But still … why there? Don’t

the Lakers have, in the deep recesses of the Staples Center, a workout

facility fit for a … well, Black Mamba, perhaps?

That said, it’s not an ideal setting to work out for him.

Everyone’s ignoring him, and at the same time everyone knows exactly

what he’s up to. Same goes for any celebrity at the gym. There’s a

certain natural curiosity that comes with working out in the presence

of a celebrity. What exercises are they doing that I’m not? How many

reps? Am I staring? God, I hope he/she doesn’t catch me staring!

I can’t give specifics about Artest’s regimen at the club, but I

can say I’ve never felt like less of an athlete in a gym setting than

when I’ve found myself working out in his presence.

To my second

initial thought — there’s obviously a reason he works out at a public

gym where anyone with a modicum of disposable income can walk up and

harass him. Maybe he likes feeling normal. Maybe, like me, he’s a fan

of the complementary toiletries available in the locker rooms.

Or maybe he thought it was one place in the city where he didn’t have to worry about making news for no good reason.

Speaking

of the TMZ post, I have to say it was probably my first “We’re not in

Kansas anymore” moment since moving to LA from Chicago in April. When

you live in the Midwest, the stuff on TMZ might as well take place on

Jupiter. That’s how strange and otherworldly some of that stuff is. But

suddenly, there was the ab machine I use nearly everyday. There were

the barbells I use, the pictures of the trainers on the wall — all

serving as the backdrop for celebrity pseudo-news.

I’ve been around world-class athletes in clubhouses, dressing rooms and

locker rooms in a reporter capacity and it was never extraordinary because they were in their

element. But seeing Ron Artest at the gym will probably always throw me off a little.

Sort of like bumping into a couple of roosters on the way to your car.