There is a lot of literature available on the web today about one of the most infamous nights in sports history.
A brawl between the Pacers and Pistons, known informally as “Malice at the Palace,” spilled over into the stands after a fan threw a drink at Ron Artest.
Artest, who spent his first two seasons with the Bulls, was the main antagonist.
Artest made a hard foul from behind on Ben Wallace with just 45 seconds remaining in the game. Wallace reacted badly, shoving Artest before both benches cleared. Artest then laid down on the scorer’s table before a fan threw a drink at him and mayhem ensued.
“Ron Artest has a look in his eye that’s very scary right now,” the broadcaster said on the telecast.
Later: “This is a disgrace.”
Here’s the video of the incident with some good links below.
USA Today published a Q&A with referee Tim Donaghy, who officiated the game and was later banned from the NBA for a betting scandal. Check that out here.
Grantland has the definitive, oral history of that night here.
From Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams:
What happened that night went well beyond nearly $10 million in forfeited paychecks and 146 games lost in suspensions. The melee transformed the Pacers from a Finals contender into a fringe playoff team and, eventually, a hopeless lottery case. Artest commenced a bizarre journey that took him from being one of the country’s most loathed athletes to Metta World Peace. The careers of Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal were forever tainted by split-second decisions that no human could have possibly premeditated. The media debated security, fan behavior, and the tenuous relationship between players and spectators for weeks. It represented the NBA’s worst nightmare: confirmation of the broad-stroke stereotype that its athletes were spoiled thugs. There were roughly half a dozen elements that caused that brawl to happen, says Mark Montieth, who covered the Pacers for the Indianapolis Star. If Artest doesn’t make that hard foul on Ben Wallace, it doesn’t happen. If Ben Wallace doesn’t react the way he did, it doesn’t happen. If the referees control the situation, it doesn’t happen. If Artest doesn’t go lay down on that scorer’s table, it doesn’t happen. If the fan doesn’t throw the beverage, it doesn’t happen. There was a continuation there, a succession of things. You take away any one of them and the whole thing doesn’t happen.
Also worth reading is this story from Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press:
It felt like anarchy, and it was unnerving, from where I sat anyway, just off the court, mere feet from Ron Artest as he lay on the scorer’s table. Even in a moment like that, when the Indiana Pacers forward’s behavior began to morph from flaky to worrisome, the idea that he’d bolt into the stands and start throwing punches seemed impossible. We didn’t do sports like that. Or we hadn’t. When players fought, they kept it in the field of play. When fans fought, they kept it in the stands. Any crossover was verbal. But, oh, that cup.