Malice at the Palace (Pacers–Pistons brawl)
Nov 19, 2004
The Associated Press (AP) called it "the most infamous brawl in NBA history." Pacers fans began to refer to their team as "The Thugs".
With the Pacers leading 97–82 and 45 seconds left on the clock, Pistons center Ben Wallace attempted a layup but was fouled from behind by Pacer Ron Artest who slapped Wallace across the back of the head during his layup.
A livid Wallace then shoved Artest in the face with both hands, causing players from both teams to get in between them, and then a fight to end all fights broke out. Tayshaun Prince is the only player who did not leave the bench during the incident.
While Artest was lying on the table, Wallace threw a towel at him, causing Artest to stand up before being held back by coaches. John Green, a fan, then threw a plastic cup containing Diet Coca Cola at Artest, hitting him square in the chest. Artest jumped off the table and charged into the stands, grabbing a different fan, one Michael Ryan, whom he mistakenly believed had thrown the cup.
Artest shouted "Did you do it?" at Ryan, to which Ryan replied, "No, man. No!" Boyle stood up from his chair at the broadcast table to attempt to hold back Artest and was knocked backwards and stepped on, suffering five fractured vertebrae and a gouge on his head. Afterwards, Artest apologized to Boyle and said he hadn't realized he'd trampled him.
Jackson followed Artest into the stands and punched yet another fan, William Paulson, in the face in retaliation for the man throwing another drink in Artest's face while he was being restrained by other spectators. Pacers players Eddie Gill, David Harrison, Reggie Miller (who was benched due to an injury), Fred Jones, and Jamaal Tinsley, the Pistons' Rasheed Wallace, and numerous personnel (including Pistons analyst and former player Rick Mahorn) also quickly entered the stands to get Artest and Jackson, and break up the fight.
John Green punched Artest twice in the head from behind, as did Ben Wallace's brother, David, to Fred Jones. Other fans began throwing drinks, food, and other things into the maelstrom and some fans went out onto the court amidst the mayhem.
As Artest walked out of the stands, he was confronted by two more fans, Alvin "A.J." Shackleford and Charlie Haddad. Artest punched Shackleford in the face, which caused Haddad to push Artest away, before falling over with Shackleford.
While Haddad was on the floor, Anthony Johnson struck him in the back of the head. As Haddad stood up, Jermaine O'Neal punched him in the jaw after a running start, while slipping in liquid and falling backwards, causing witnesses Scot Pollard, ESPN sideline reporter Jim Gray, and Pistons exec Tom Wilson to fear that O'Neal would kill Haddad.
O'Neal later claimed that Haddad was asked to leave the arena earlier that night, and was well known to security due to claims he wanted to fight an NBA player in order to receive a legal settlement. William Wesley, Austin Croshere, and Miller pulled Artest away from the fans, and Brown attempted to calm Wallace.
The scene became more chaotic as additional fans went onto the court and additional items were thrown, overwhelming arena security personnel. Although local police had plans to handle many disorders, they were not prepared for the possibility players might enter the stands, leading masses of fans to storm onto the court armed with foodstuffs.
The brawl lasted for several minutes. Referees subsequently ended the game without playing out the clock.
After the game, the NBA suspended nine players for a total of 146 games, leading to the players losing $11 million dollars. Five players were charged with assault, and were eventually sentenced to a year of probation and community service. Five fans faced assault charges and were banned from attending Pistons games for life. The fight also led the NBA to increase security and limit the sale of alcohol at games.