The Malice at the Palace Was 19 Years Ago Today
One of the darkest days in NBA history happened 19 years ago today, in Detroit, and put the entire league, and specifically two midwest teams, in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
It was a violent outburst that resulted in multiple injuries, fines, suspensions, and bans in the sporting world. It came with added rules in the NBA, and an increased attention in safety for the fans and players. At the time, they saw it as a violent night. We know it as "The Malice in the Palace."
I remember, Nov. 19, 2004 as a Friday night while I was in college. We were all prepping to leave for Thanksgiving the next week, but it didn't stop us from heading out to some friends' houses to drink a little and watch some basketball.
As the night carried on, I very distinctly remember looking at the TV, and seeing the replay of what had happened on SportsCenter as it was coming on the air. I couldn't believe it, and didn't even think it was from an NBA game. I thought it was some overseas league video.
Wallace, already hot that Detroit was behind, turned, and shoved Artest.
The benches cleared, and during the scrum, Artest was separated from the Pistons sideline. In fact, he chose to relax, and laid down on the announcer's table while things were sorted out. For a moment, it seemed like things had subsided.
But then, November 19th, 2004 would forever change the shape of the NBA... all from a blue plastic cup.
While laying on the table, Artist was hit with a drink that a fan threw at him. That was enough for him to snap, and jumped up, on the announce table, and into the stands to chase after a fan. The big problem was, though, it was the wrong fan. But the damage had been done.
As Artest started violently attacking fans, looking for the person who threw the drink at him, he began to get hit from behind. His teammate, Stephen Jackson, followed Artest into the stands and started swinging on fans as well. In a later 30 for 30 documentary, he said he only went into the stands to defend and protect his teammate.
At this point, chaos had erupted just past the announcers table in the stands. Teammates were trying to drag Jackson and Artest out of the stands. Fans were throwing punches at the players, and continued throwing drinks at them.
But even once the players all got back on the court, the mayhem wasn't finished. A Pistons fan approached Artest on the court, at which point, he cold-cocked him in the face. MORE fans rushed the court to fight Artest, Jackson, and other members of the Pistons Squad. Pacers teammate Anthony Johnson struck one of the fans who also tried to confront Artest as he was leaving the court.
The Pacers players had to literally be dragged off the court, under cover of playbooks and jackets as fans pelted them with food, drinks, and other objects.
Multiple players for both Detroit and Indiana were given punishments. Ron Artest was banned for the remainder of the season, and fined nearly $5 million. Stephen Jackson was suspended for 30 games, and paid $1.75 million in fines. Jermaine O'Neal, who was also caught on camera punching a fan in the jaw, received a 15 game suspension, dropped from 25 games after an appeal, and paid more than $4 million in fines.
Other players suspended included the Pistons' Anthony Johnson, and Reggie Miller, who wasn't even playing in the game that night, but was involved in some of the violence. Also, Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Derrick Coleman, and Elden Campbell were fined and suspended for as many as six games.
Multiple legal charges were filed against individual players, Palace Sports and Entertainment, and other organizations in charge of the event.
Following the incident, the NBA immediately increased protection of players and arenas, and reminded players of the existing security procedures. It also changed for the fans. No drink was to exceed 24 US fl oz for alcohol, no more than two beverages per person, and the discontinuation of alcohol sales after the third quarter.
The league also began requiring at least three security guards between players and the fans.
It was a dark day for professional sports in general, but especially for Artest, Jackson, and the FANS in Detroit, who were also blamed for their actions that antagonized players on the Indiana bench.
Since then, no incident even remotely similar has happened... thankfully.
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Gallery Credit: Jacob Harrison
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Gallery Credit: Jacob Harrison