Ever go to an American professional sporting event and thought, “damn, I wish I had brought my mace or brass-knuckles?” If you’re like most people you probably answered no, but for a select few thousand people from Detroit, their answers would be different.
It started out as a normal game between the defending NBA champions Detroit Pistons and the visiting Indiana Pacers. Both teams were known to be physical bruising teams, but with under a minute left, a hard, but not too hard, foul by Ron Artest, now known as Metta World-Peace, started a chain reaction that would change people’s life forever.
With 45 seconds left in the game and the Pacers up 15 points, Pistons’ center Ben Wallace took exception to the foul and retaliated by violently shoving Artest and starting a scrum at mid-court.
Was the foul justified by beliefs that you never concede a basket? Yes and no. However, when you’re up by 15 points with under a minute left, there’s no need for it. Just let it go. Consequently, what was a simple foul ignited a brawl that didn’t just involve the players and coaches from both teams, but the fans as well.
The “Malice in the Palace” would have never been if not for an idiotic fan throwing a beer on a calm Ron Artest. The tempers were subsiding, but after that moment, that fan figuratively poured a barrel of gas on hot coals. Artest immediately charged like an angry bull with teammates Steven Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal following suit by throwing punches left and right to anyone within arms length.
What people don’t talk about is how good the Pacers were and the fact that they had a chance to compete for a title. The pervious year, 2003-04, they entered the playoffs as the No. 1 overall seed with a 61-21 record, and this was the first meeting since they faced off in the Eastern Conference Finals where the Pistons won 4-2. So yes, there was some bad blood involved between the players, and obviously the fans, but that doesn’t excuse the manner in which everybody acted.
I think a lot of us made a lot of selfish decisions that day. I made a selfish decision to stop trying to break it up and to confront Lindsey Hunter and Richard Hamilton. That was my selfish decision. Ron made a selfish decision by going into the stands. We all made selfish decisions, but at the same time, we were protecting each other. It’s kind of hard to see if that’s right or wrong
This fight left many bruised, bloodied, scared, and furious. Chairs were thrown into scrums, people were trampled, and kids were crying as they watched their heroes were overtaken with such rage. It also involved over $10-million in suspended paychecks and a combined 146-game suspension.
The main three players, Artest, Jackson, and O’Neal have all overcome this unforgettable moment. All three have gone on to have very respectable careers with World-Peace being the only one winning a championship. It is possible to talk about them and their skills and careers without bringing up the “Malice in the Palace,” but there is always that one person in every group who loves to bring it up.