NEW YORK (AP) -Ron Artest called it the worst place he'd ever seen. Maurice Evans emptied his pockets to buy shoes for kids who were walking barefoot over the filthy ground.
The NBA players, in Kenya to help feed children, quickly realized food wasn't all that was needed. Electricity, heat and drinking water - necessities rather than luxuries in most parts of the world - were also missing.
``It was way, way worse than what I expected,'' the Lakers' Evans said Tuesday from Nairobi during a phone interview. ``People are actually living in slums. We call it ghettos and we have projects and places like that, but those are like mansions in Beverly Hills compared to what these people are living in.''
Etan Thomas of the Washington Wizards.
Artest learned during the trip that he had been suspended for the first seven games of next season by the NBA. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge stemming from a March 5 dispute with his wife. Known best for charging into the stands to fight a fan in Detroit, Artest hopes the trip shows another side of him that isn't often publicized.
``I think people should know that I'm not just some knucklehead,'' he said. ``I have a heart, too.''
Artest said he signed on for the trip to see where he came from, and was moved by what he saw - children attending class in a broken-down school, a tribal chief who gave union director Billy Hunter his cane. He was so moved, in fact, he plans to have a house built there this fall.
Used to eating only once a day, the children stuffed food in their pockets to share with family members. They didn't know they were being served by NBA players, only that, ``we're tall guys,'' Ratliff said.
``We got the chance to see Kenya at its best and Kenya at its worst,'' Thomas said. ``I know you can't solve their economic problems, but you can at least put a smile on a kid's face.''
Evans did that for quite a few of them. After noticing the cuts on their unprotected feet, Evans took three youngsters to buy shoes. That turned into a line of five, which quickly doubled as word spread until Evans took out all the money he had at the time - about $250 - to purchase as many pairs as possible.
This trip ends Wednesday, and Ratliff thinks more players should consider taking part in future ones.
``It's something that definitely touches your heart,'' he said. ``They should want to go here. It makes you see the blessings that you have.''
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