Gone are the days where two NBA teams who straight-up didn’t like each other could get together and elevate their rivalry with a brawl. Good riddance. Those who enjoy watching titans inflict pain on each other can find plenty of other vices to quench their thirst for violence. In fact, there are entire weekends devoted to it, with the college and professional rankings of football dedicated to humans crashing into each other and hoping they hurt their opponent as much as they want to hurt them.
Basketball isn’t meant for that. Only in basketball can the fans immediately take part in it since there’s no glass barrier — as there is in hockey — or distance from the field to the stands — as there is in football and baseball.
One of the greatest appeals of basketball is how close fans can get to the action, some essentially sitting on the same court as the players. With courtside seats sometimes selling deep into five-digits, it was obvious what sort of steps the league was going to take to prevent fights.
There have been altercations since the fateful day in Detroit that brought about league-wide changes, but nothing of too much significance outside of some harmless punches, elbows and pushing. It’s so much a thing of the past that it’s become nostalgic. It presents a trip down memory lane when you go back and see how much teams truly didn’t like each other, far different than what we see today, where we’re watching the league’s best players work together in the offseason.
So we’re paying homage to those fights that’ll be a part of NBA history forever. This list of the 20 best or most intense fights in NBA history is dedicated to the brawls and the memorable punches.
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20. ROBERT HORRY VS. PHOENIX
Yeah, it wasn’t much of a brawl but it’s just funny because it is SO ridiculously blatant… and then Horry tries to play it off like it was nothing. Then there’s Steve Nash, who acted like he’d been shot before joking about it afterward. I doubt he realized at the time that this fight probably cost the team a series win.
19. SHAQ NEARLY DECAPITATES BRAD MILLER
Brad Miller came a few feet away from having a bear paw tear his head off. However, any white guy that rocks cornrows automatically becomes a target.
18. RONDO VS. HUMPHRIES
How do you stop an incredible double-digit assist streak? Why, you get someone involved in a brawl. Rajon Rondo had a streak of 38 consecutive games recording double-figure assists before being ejected for instigating this baseline fight between Boston and Brooklyn. What’s ironic about this now is that most of the key figures involved (Gerald Wallace, Kevin Garnett and Kris Humphries) have all switched teams. It’ll be interesting to see what happens this year.
17. KURT RAMBIS VS. KEVIN McHALE
You’ve probably seen this one once or twice. But seriously, what’s up with Larry Bird trying to help Rambis up not once, but twice?