Malice at the Palace, 15 Years LaterNovember 20, 2019
By: Dave Furtado, Head Basketball Analyst
Yesterday marked the fifteenth anniversary of the greatest fight in NBA history. In the closing seconds of a game between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons at The Palace at Auburn Hills, the two teams got into a shoving match underneath the rim, and from there, all hell broke loose. The aptly named Malice at the Palace would go down as one of the greatest sports fights ever and certainly the greatest in NBA history. The brawl ended up in nine players receiving suspensions from the NBA, most notably Ron Artest being hit with just about a season long suspension. In addition to players being suspended several fans were brought up on charges and banned from attending Pistons games for life. Overall this was an all time great brawl and I’m going to break it all down step by step so we can all reminisce about the Malice at the Palace.
As with any fight, you need to go all the way to the beginning to find out how exactly this all started. Well it’s fairly simple with this fight. Pistons big man Ben Wallace tried going up for a layup towards the end of the game and was hit with a hard foul by none other than Ron Artest. Artest had been pushing Wallace’s buttons all night and this last hard foul in the waning seconds of the game was clearly the straw the broke the camel’s back in this situation. Wallace, who as we all know made his name in the NBA on his physicality and his never back down attitude, decided he’d had enough and decided to hit Artest with a shove so hard that Artest went flying back as if he’d been launched from a cannon. The scrum then went to the scorers table where referees and players tried to break up the budding fight between Wallace and Artest. Among said “peacemakers” was Rasheed Wallace, which is ironic as hell if you know anything about Rasheed Wallace and his career. All kidding aside he did try and deescalate the situation at first.
Here We Go
Just when it looks as though order is being restored and the two teams disperse a little bit, here comes Stephen Jackson squaring up like he’s Mohammed Ali trying to fight anyone wearing a Pistons uniform. Watching this back again this quick part with Jackson full on squaring up is one of the funniest moments in the entire sequence.
Now we seem to be at a point when the fight appears to be over, Wallace has walked away, Jackson is being pulled aside and talked down by teammates and coaches, and Ron Artest is hunched over near the scorers table. Then all of a sudden something comes flying down from the heavens, is it a bird…a plane…nope, it’s a cup of some type of drink that was hurled down from the stands and it just so happened to drill Artest in the back of the head. Next thing anybody knows all hell breaks loose and Artest is now in the stands throwing haymakers at fans. Before he can do any real damage to the fan he was going after Artest was quickly restrained by several fans seemingly trying to help restore order. However he is then splashed in the face with another drink, and by this time half the Pacers are in the crowd trying to get Artest back to the court. Stepehen Jackson sees his teammate get held back then hit in the face with a drink, so he does what any good teammate would do, and hits the fan in question with one of the meanest right crosses I’ve ever seen on a basketball court.
From here on out it was complete chaos. You had players fighting fans, fans fighting fans, and players fighting players all at the same time. Half of the players were in the stands trying to get Artest out of there, and Stephen Jackson is running around the first few rows trying to beat the crap out of any breathing organism. After about another minute or so of mayhem we finally see Artest back on the court, maybe the fight is finally over the teams are separated and it appears that some type of order has been restored. This couldn’t have been further from the truth. Just when it seemed to be over it wasn’t, Artest and Jackson among other Pacers were being escorted off the court to the locker rooms when fans started to hurl bottles and cups at them, and at rather high velocities might I add. Another scrum broke out on the pathway to the tunnel and it’s hard to tell who’s involved at first as it’s just a giant mosh pit of fans throwing haymakers. Come to find out it was none other than Pacers center Jermaine O’Neal having popcorn and beer thrown at him on his way out. Now we didn’t originally get to see it, but upon review we see that once back on the floor Artest drills a Pistons fan in the face with a punch.
Then out of absolutely NOWHERE comes O’Neal with an earth shattering right cross. If he hadn’t slipped on the wet floor he likely would’ve ended the fans existence, I’m saying he would’ve knocked his head clean off his shoulders. O’Neal had a full running start and as well all know, he is not a small man. As a member of our Tailgate NBA Staff Dylan Delaney tweeted, O’Neal would’ve sent that fan to the shadow realm.
In all seriousness the Malice at the Palace was a major black eye for the NBA. To have fans attacking players and then for players to run into the crowd and fight fans, just wasn’t a good look. Then NBA commissioner David Stern came down hard on those involved. Artest received an 86 game suspension for his role in the brawl, Jackson received 30 games and there were an assortment of smaller suspensions including O’Neal who received 15 games and Ben Wallace who received 6 games for his role. Artest’s 86 game suspension was the longest and still stands as the longest suspension in the history of the NBA. O’Neal was originally supposed to receive a suspension in the area of 25 games for his actions, but upon an appeal had it reduced to the 15 that he eventually served. Chauncey Billups was hit with a single game suspension out of this mess as was Reggie Miller. All in all nine different players received suspensions for the brawl, ranging from 86 games to just a single game.
As for what happened to the key players in the fight after well Ron Artest was traded the next season to the Sacramento Kings. This didn’t have anything to do with the brawl, but he only played 16 games in Indiana following Malice at the Palace, so the incident could’ve been the beginning of the end for his time with the Pacers. The Malice at the Palace is something that fifteen years later is easy to look back on as a crazy sports moment, but at the time it was a huge issue. The way that the Pistons fans handled themselves from the first drink being thrown to the end of the incident was nothing short of disgraceful and should be remembered as such. Despite all of the negatives surrounding it I can say with confidence that Malice at the Palace set the benchmark for brawls at sporting events. It was complete chaos and was so over the top insane and it’s one of the more fun sports moments of the 21st century to look back and talk about.