For most outside Indiana the fallout from The Brawl in Detroit has been long forgotten.

Before the brawl, the Pacers looked poised for another title run. Nearly six years later, Ron Artest apologized for his actions in his opening statements after winning a title.

But for the fans that recently watched the franchise miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season (after making the playoffs in 16 of the previous 17), the after-effects are still painfully real.

Not too long ago – the 2003-04 season to be exact – the Pacers were 61-21 and gave the Pistons all they could handle in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Heading into the 2004-05 season, the Pacers were a serious contender for the Eastern Conference crown and were off to a good start (6-2) and dominating the defending-champion Pistons in their house.

Then it happened.

A tossed cup hits Ron Artest, a convoy of Pacers follow him into the stands … you know the rest.

Artest bitched his way out of Indiana, Stephen Jackson and Jamaal Tinsley couldn’t stay out of trouble, Donnie Walsh made terrible trades in a panicked effort to clean up the team’s image, and the franchise went down the toilet.

Understandably, Artest has become a villain in Indiana. Though, over the years he has been apologetic for his actions.

After winning a championship with the Lakers, you would think the last thing on Artest’s mind would be the Pacers – a chapter of his career and life he’ll forever try to put behind him, but will never be forgotten.

But there he was during the opening moments of the biggest press conference of his career speaking about what he did in Indiana, still trying to make amends for his actions nearly six years ago. Surprisingly, Artest’s comments were completely unprompted.

Many Pacers fans will never forgive him, and for good reason. But listening to him atone for his mistakes, I gained a lot of respect for Artest.

“When I was younger, I bailed out on my Indiana team,” he said. “I was so young, so egotistical, and I bailed out on (team executives) Donnie (Walsh) (and) Larry (Bird) (and former teammates) Jermaine (O’Neal), (Jamaal) Tinsley, (Jeff) Foster, who never bails out. He just fights for you, for his team. Stephen Jackson, who already had a ring, continued to fight for us.”

He went on.

“I feel sometimes like a coward when I see those guys, because it’s like, ‘Man, I’m on the Lakers and I had a chance to win with you guys,’ and I feel almost like a coward,” Artest said. “I never thought God would put me in this situation again because of that. So I’m blessed.”

Artest’s words obviously can’t erase the damage done, but something must be said for accountability. I, for one, was impressed.

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