The Malice at the Palace – NBA’s darkest day

By Joni Ahokas 

19th November 2004 will always be remembered as one of the most infamous fights in sports. The Malice at the Palace was probably the darkest day in NBA-history. 

It was last season’s Eastern Conference finalists Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers who played host to this dark event. The Pistons were the defending champions and Pacers wanted to put their rival’s in their place. 

The Pacers were already leading by 15 points and coasting to a win with just 15 seconds left on the clock. Then the incident started. 

Pistons-center Ben Wallace tried to execute a layup, when he was fouled roughly by Pacers-small forward Ron Artest. 

Several players were involved in an altercation between the scorer and his opposite number but the situation was still under the referee’s control. 

But the level of tension in arena was still high. Anger and frustration could be seen on stands. 

Then one Pistons fan, John Green, ignited the chaos as he threw a cup at Ron Artest. 

Artest snapped and jumped off the scorer’s table and into the stands as he looked to target the fan in question. One Pacers player threw Green aggressively onto the ground as other spectators tried to calm him down. 

The situation became even worse when another Pacers player, Stephen Jackson, followed Artest into stands and hit another fan as he tried to defend his team-mate. 

That lead to a massive brawl and eventually, all hell broke loose. Drinks, food and punches were thrown, and some players were put in serious danger. 

The disgusting incident was subsequently handled by the NBA and Detroit police. 

The longest suspension was naturally given to Artest. The main brawler was banned for rest of the season. Jackson was given a 30 game suspension and the third Pacers player involved Jermaine O’Neal, was suspended for a reduced 15 games after launching an appeal. 

The Pacers trio was later sentenced to one year probation and 60 days of community service. 

 In regards to Pistons players, Wallace was given a six game ban. Also, five fans were given criminal charges and were banned from Pistons’ home games for life. 

The NBA decided to take serious action in regards to this incident and since then they have been working to increase player security. The league wanted to drop the thug image from professional basketball. 

Athletes who came from poor neighbourhoods were looked upon as crooks by spectators and after that brawl they had a right to do so. 

Former NBA commissioner David Stern tried to make sure that similar incidents would never happen again. Stern started making giving players dress codes before games to make them look more polite. 

Stern was left devastated from the incident. He described it to the press as “shocking, repulsive, and an inexcusable humiliation for everybody associated with NBA.” 

Pistons fan Green, who started the fight revealed later in a radio interview that he had a bet with his friend if he could hit Artest with his empty cup. Green also revealed that he had still been recovering from alcohol problems he was suffering a few years prior to the event, which he got later under control. 

The NBA subsequently decided to make some changes to their alcohol policy. They decided to limit the size and number of beers sold during the games. After the new guideline was brought in, alcohol sale was forbidden after fourth quarter begins. 

The impact of The Malice at the Palace can still be seen in every NBA-game. For example every halftime, there is a reminding message about the conduct that is expected from the fans which is read loudly on jumbotrons. 

Bad behaviour can now lead to ejections from games and in extreme cases, arrests and prosecution. 

This notorious brawl has undoubtedly changed the league forever. 

Sub-edited by Ciaran Coyle 

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