David Stern's decision to take away the rest of Ron Artest's season might be a little extreme, but Artest will find no sympathy here. Artest has made a career of going to extremes, and he deserves a taste of his own medicine.
Stern could have sent the necessary anti-violence message by suspending Artest for 30 or 40 games instead of the remaining 72 games of the season. That certainly would have been enough to make players think twice in the future before going into the stands. But by dropping the hammer he has told Artest --and any other player who might be inclined to imitate his trouble-making act -- that his instigating, antagonistic, hot-tempered ways will not be tolerated.
Artest surely had no idea that his hard foul on Ben Wallace would lead to the worst brawl in NBA history, but that's just the point. His constant attempts to stir up trouble on the court can lead to unintended consequences, and it's about time he suffered some of them.
Stern may have had a second, more pragmatic purpose in handing down such harsh penalties -- it gives him a cushion once the NBA Players' Association launches its inevitable challenge to the suspensions. Even if the union succeeds in getting an arbitrator to whittle the number of games down a bit, Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal still will serve a sufficiently stiff and justified penalty.
The union probably will adopt the argument that already has been put forth in some quarters that Artest was defending himself, which is nonsense. He wasn't fending off imminent danger, he was ticked off because someone had doused him with a drink. Artest didn't go into the stands for self-defense, he went in for retaliation. There's a huge difference.
Artest will have plenty of time to think about that difference over the next several months. By the time he comes back the NBA undoubtedly will have enacted several measures to make sure the ugliness of last Friday won't be repeated.
But the league took the first, most important step with Stern's bold move. Removing Ron Artest from the league automatically makes it a safer place.
React: Were the players who were suspended in the Pistons-Pacers fight treated fairly?
Sports Illustrated senior writer Phil Taylor writes about a Hot Button topic every Monday on SI.com.