Saturday, December 12th, 2009 at 8:00 am  |  28 responses

Decade’s Best: Fight

Malice doesn’t begin to describe it.

by Aaron Vaccariello

Consider the night of November 19, 2004 a night of bad choices. It’s a simple way to sum up one of the most alarming conflicts of the passing decade in professional sports. You may remember when and where you saw the “highlights.” You could have even been in attendance at the Palace that night. Wherever you were, we all shared the same feeling when the fans turned matador to a raging Artest.

After Wallace was fouled hard by Artest (but not that hard) and the scuffle ensued, the conflict appeared to be settling. The two teams came together at the sideline where coaches and security attempted to diffuse the matter by latching on to their players. Lounging on the scorer’s table in the Palace of Auburn Hills isn’t a wise decision, and obviously Detroit fans let him know.

“I lay on tables a lot. I lay on my bench in my neighborhood and nobody throws cups or rocks at me,” said Artest during an interview with QD3 Entertainment.

Unfortunately The Palace wasn’t his neighborhood. At that point it seemed like the tension in the arena was hanging by a thread. The crowd was hissing when spectator John Green suddenly tossed his “soda” onto Artest disrupting his lay-down. It acted less like a beverage and more like a grenade. If you blinked you missed it. Without hesitation he hurdled the barrier into the stands. It became a surreal moment as the holy division between players and fans collided. Fists came down on fans relentlessly, and the gestures were mutual.

Two days after the altercation NBA Commissioner David Stern held a press conference that would take the League into tighter confinement. “We must redefine the boundaries of acceptable conduct for fans attending our games and resolve to permanently exclude those that overstep those bounds.”

John Green, the spectator who allegedly sparked the fury is also seen punching Artest from behind during footage of the brawl. He is widely considered as the sole instigator of the problem and was charged with counts of assault and battery.

“The actions of the players involved wildly exceeded the professionalism and self-control that should fairly be expected from NBA players. We must affirm that the NBA will strive to exemplify the best that can be offered by professional sports and not allow our sport to be debased by what seems to be declining expectations from fans and athletes alike.”

The biggest suspensions in NBA history were issued as Artest sat out the remainder of the season (73 games and the Playoffs) without pay. Stephen Jackson got a 30-game suspension, Jermaine O’Neal received 25 games (later cut down to 15) and Ben Wallace missed out on six regular season games.

A lot of people felt that the fans should be held more accountable for their role in the fight. “The punches that Artest and O’Neal threw at fans on the court should be exempt from suspension because all bets should be off when a fan comes onto the court and goes after a player,” said Tim Legler, a retired NBA player and ESPN analyst. “When fans go after a player and threaten him physically, they deserve what they get.” In all fairness, both groups were to blame. It’s a chicken-egg debate. If so and so didn’t do this, then so and so wouldn’t have gotten a haymaker from JO. There are no ifs ands or buts. Everyone reacted poorly and as a result people suffered. Luckily in the wonderful world of sports, when incidents happen like this, people will continue to watch or perhaps even watch more. That’s how spectacles work. For the following two seasons the Pistons led the League in attendance.

Realistically, this wouldn’t be the fight of the decade if it weren’t for the fans (hold your applause). It wouldn’t have been a fight at all for that matter, and that’s a good thing. November 19, 2004 was a night to set an example of what not to do during a basketball game. There might always be that one drunk dude who gets too rowdy– because David Stern can only enforce so much. And since we now know there is no force field between bleachers and hardwood, maybe the next John Green will take a seat.

“There’s a line. People know that. They know what they should and shouldn’t do.” — Ron Artest


For more Decade Awards, check out the archive.

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  • J

    first. saw that game live.

  • Trout

    Still the best…

  • Michael Scorn

    I like th WNBA fight that the Detroit Shock had better.

  • Brian

    I was watching this game on TV and will never forget it. At that moment I would not have stopped watching if my house caught fire.

  • http://www.yahoo.com Logues

    that night was kinda like 9/11, i’ll never forget where i was and just sitting there watching it over and over again

  • horsey

    not at all like 9/11…

  • mar

    When was this game?

  • black pinoy

    failed my exams the next day because i watched the figth way too much

  • black pinoy

    failed my exams the next day because i watched the figth way too much

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    That year, Indiana could have won a championship–they were that good. Ron Artest was putting up 24 ppg, Stephen Jackson was straight balling, REGGIE MILLER was on the team as a seasoned veteran ready to knock down crunchtime shots, and Jermaine O’Neal was still one of the best centers in the league, if not the best.
    The suspension on Ron Artest was way too harsh, and cost the Pacers maybe their best shot at a title ever.

  • http://nicekicks.com MeloMan2.0

    i still thenk ben wallace got away wayyy too easy considering he started it for no real reason… the next day at school everyone was re-inacting the fight.. good times

  • http://www.michaelcho.com M Cho

    The Pacers are still dealing with the repercussions of that night, while the Pistons just kept on rolling. Crazy.

  • http://www.sonicbids.com doyouwantmore

    I still can’t believe some of those players who went into the stands of their own free will to attack fans weren’t banned for life from the NBA. Any other person who fights customers or clients where they work would be fired. The day Artest signed with the Kings was one of the lowest points for me as a fan. And Stephen Jackson and his ugly-a$$ hook nose can suck it.

  • Yesse

    That fight was nuts.

  • marco

    @doyouwantmore it was wrong for artest to lay on the table..he was asking for it. but the reason he went into the stands was because he felt disrespected, some guy just threw beer at him. he definitely acted on impulse and i do think that in any workplace, once a client/customer does something stupid like that he should be banned. the problem is, artest got there before security. and if i remember correctly..stephen went into the stands after ron ron and jermaine threw the haymaker at a fan running at him. this wasn’t just the players’ fault you know.

  • letsmotor

    Couldn’t agree more with doyouwantmore. It definitely wasn’t just the players’ fault, but Ron deserved what he got AT THE VERY LEAST, and I’m not a Ron hater either. All of those players were disgraces to the league that night.

  • Rob

    This fight wouldn’t have happened in any other arena. Detroit fans are scum.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    doyouwantmore are you high? A customer or client wouldn’t throw beer at an employees face, or gang up on the employee afterward. Artest laid down on the scorers’ table because he DIDN’T want to fight the Pistons’ players–then a fan throws a drink at his face.
    Get out of here with that. Maybe next time know what you’re talking about.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Then, as the players were LEAVING, the fans threw chairs and more drinks at the players. Screw the fans that did that, the players had every right to be angry and retaliate force with force. You’re going to tell me if you were an employee and a customer threw beer at your face, you wouldn’t do anything about it? Or if one of your friends was being jumped by a bunch of drunken clowns, you wouldn’t help them?
    Also, this was definitely NOT the first time players fought with fans. Robert Parrish beat up a fan who verbally provoked him. If I’m correct, Parrish wasn’t suspended anywhere near as long as a full season, much less BANNED from the NBA.

  • Michael Scorn

    Altercations like the one between Ben and Ron happen like that all the time, but only in Detroit will you see morons throw beer at a player because of that.

  • letsmotor

    Are the fans that got involved trash? Absolutely. But does that mean that players “had a right to retaliate force with force”? Really? Sorry, but that’s never right. Ron Artest wasn’t acting in self defense, he just got pissed off, which is understandable, but he couldn’t control himself.

  • dma

    didn’t barkley throw some dude out of a bar window or something back in the day?

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    The Detroit Shock game was awkward. Laimbeer just couldn’t let the old times go.
    The Pacers would’ve at least gotten to the ECF that year. Unfortunate.

  • http://www.euroleagueadventures.com Nick Gibson

    I find it funny that Ron takes every opportunity these days to let everybody know he’s ready to throw down with Ben Wallace, yet at the time–for the only time in his career–he decided to go and lay down on the scorer’s table instead of get in somebody’s face, then he “manned up” when some fan threw a cup at him. What strength.The most physical harm Artest has ever done is to a camera; the rest is all theatrics.

  • http://www.slamonline.com barnabusb

    Good point, Nick — has anyone actually seen Artest fight before? Besides the fans, I mean. He acts crazy, but can he really back it up? I think Ben Wallace would crush him. He’s a bad dude.

  • LeoneL

    ^ With guns and knives maybe…but hand-to-hand combat, Ben will crush him..lol

  • Kevin

    Why do people always leave out that Artest attacked the wrong fan. That alone should damn him. If I was a fan and saw Artest going after a person who had nothing to do with it, I would try to help him too.

  • http://thegayestwebsiteever.com Big Ben

    I’m tired of all this Detroit hate – one guy acts like a total ass, and all of a sudden it’s some kind of black eye for the city of Detroit? Had some drunken fan thrown a cup of beer at Artest in any other arena, and he got up and ran into the crowd and started punching people, how would it have ended any differently? What the hell does that have to do with Detroit? Seriously, what? First of all, if you’ve ever been to the Palace, you’d know that just a small percentage of the fans at the games even live within the Detroit city limits. It takes about a half-hour to get to the Palace from Detroit. Plus, what happened between Artest and Wallace initially wasn’t even that extreme – stuff like that happens many times a year, and used to happen a lot more before the league got all weak. So all this talk about Ben Wallace somehow starting a riot is kind of weak also. He probably was sick of Ron Ron going around and acting like a punk all the time and wanted to let him know that he just effed with the wrong guy. And Ron Ron knew that he just got punked out on a nationally televised game, and he took it out on some dude in the crowd. The wrong dude at that.