On November 19th, 2004, at the end of a blowout between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons, the unthinkable happened. A skirmish on the floor between Ron Artest and Ben Wallace carried over into the stands. What followed was arguably the ugliest incident in sports history as fans and players traded punches in what was ultimately known as ‘The Malice At The Palace.’
Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal and the aforementioned Ron Artest served lengthy suspensions and paid hefty fines as a result of the incident. Several fans received probation, community service and were banned from The Palace for life.
Here are 10 things you probably didn’t about the Malice at the Palace.
Derrick Coleman to Stephen Jackson: “I will kill you.”
We spoke with Matt Dery, who served as the sports director for WDFN The Fan (the Pistons flagship station) from 1996-2009. Dery was sitting courtside when the brawl occurred and offered up this amazing anecdote.
While Artest and Wallace went toe-to-toe at mid-court, Stephen Jackson began taunting the Pistons bench. In the video you can see him jawing with Richard Hamilton and Lindsey Hunter and at one point, he started shadow boxing.
At the end of the Pistons bench stood 6’10” Derrick Coleman, who was winding down his career in Detroit. Coleman was a legend in the city having played his high school ball at Detroit Northern. He wasn’t a guy you messed with, he wasn’t a guy who said “hold me back” during a fight. If he said it, he meant it and he was serious.
As Jackson continued to taunt players, Coleman finally stepped in and calmly told him: “I’ll kill you. I will kill you.”
Dery says he could hear Coleman loud and clear from his position. Nothing of course came of that altercation because, moments later, the cup hit Artest and all hell broke loose.
John Green and Ron Artest made amends on a Detroit radio station in 2009
John Green, who instigated the brawl with a plastic cup of Diet Coke, spoke to Ron Artest on Detroit’s WRIF in 2009. They made amends, sort of. The two were supposed to do a charity event in Detroit but sadly, that never came to fruition.
The two “bros” confirmed their recent reunion on air and made it clear that they have put the incident behind them. Well, Artest has put it behind him—Green will continue to milk his night of infamy for all its worth.
John Green now lives in western Michigan. He is still banned from The Palace. WDIV in Detroit received this text from him on the anniversary.
One fan tried to sue Jermaine O’Neal
Charlie Haddad was one of the fans who ran on the court to confront Pacers players. He’s the guy in the video who took a wild, running haymaker from Jermaine O’Neal (pictured above). Haddad tried to sue O’Neal, claiming he suffered serious injuries as a result of the punch, including migraines and memory loss. Unfortunately for Haddad he flew to Vegas less than 24 hours after the game and had a grand ol’ time. The lawsuit was dismissed.
The defense presented evidence that Haddad flew to Las Vegas the day after the Nov. 19, 2004, brawl and had been a regular visitor to the gambling mecca ever since.
Pacers radio play-by-play man Mark Boyle broke five vertebrae after getting trampled by Artest
When Artest tried to separate himself from the fight on the court, he wandered over to the scorers table, put a headset on to speak with Pacers play-by-play man Mark Boyle. His mic was off for obvious reasons but it appeared as if he was having a conversation with Boyle. That’s when the cup came flying in. Here’s Boyle describing the scene in Grantland’s oral history of the brawl.
Boyle: Instinctively or reflexively, I did step up and Ronnie trampled right over me. I fractured five vertebrae. The thing I laugh about now is my wife says to me, “If you could have stopped Ronnie from going into the stands, none of this would have happened.” I say, “Well, Jesus, if I could have stopped Ron from going into the stands, I would be playing in the NFL.” My partner, Slick Leonard, was smarter than me — he moved out of the line of fire.
Tim Donaghy was one of the refs that night
Yes, THAT Tim Donaghy. The disgraced ref who served 15 months in a federal prison for gambling on games was the third official that night.
From USA TODAY:
I tried to grab him (Artest), he just broke away very easily and when I looked up there were other players in the stand and punches were being thrown. So at that point, it was more serious than anything we were involved in ever before.
Worth nothing that Donaghy had several run-ins with Pistons’ forward Rasheed Wallace, including an incident where Wallace confronted him on a loading dock following a game in 2003. Wallace served a 7 game suspension as a result.
“I don’t blame players for going into the stands” -John Saunders on ESPN
Most people remember John Saunders calling Detroit fans “a bunch of punks” that night. But Saunders and the NBA crew took it one step further by saying they didn’t blame players for going into the stands. Now remember, this was 2004, long before Twitter and Facebook and the explosion of social media.
Via USA TODAY:
ESPN executive Mark Shapiro called NBA Shootaround host John Saunders and analysts Stephen A. Smith, Tim Legler and Greg Anthony on Saturday after seeing replays of them criticizing the Detroit fans for tossing beverages and debris at the players but giving a pass to Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal of the Pacers for going into the stands to attack fans.
“I wish the studio hadn’t laid the blame solely on the backs of the fans Friday night,” Shapiro said Tuesday. “In this instant-opinion culture, it’s easy to make a knee-jerk reaction in the wrong way. But we’re proud of the body of work over the entire weekend.”
Pistons President Joe Dumars told The Detroit News for Tuesday’s editions that the NBA had “read ESPN the riot act” over its coverage Friday night, but spokesmen Mike Soltys of ESPN and David Cooper of the NBA said Tuesday the league had not complained to the network.
Saunders at first called the fans “a bunch of punks” and said, “I don’t blame the players for going into the stands.” Legler, a former NBA player, said, “The blame should be put on the Detroit Piston fans.”
John Saunders says that today, in 2014, and he’s likely out of a job.
Ben Wallace’s brother, David, walloped the Pacers’ Fred Jones in the face
Via Indy Star:
Just as things had settled down, a cup hits Artest, and he charges sending him into the stands. Stephen Jackson follows him in immediately, igniting a fight with fans. Artest hits a fan, John Green punches Artest. William Paulson throws liquid at Artest, Jackson retaliates. Fred Jones is punched by David Wallace, Ben’s brother. Eddie Gill and David Harrison also go into the stands.
For weeks, Ben Wallace and his brother both claimed he wasn’t involved, claimed he wasn’t anywhere near the brawl when it happened. Finally on December 4th, video evidence emerged fingering David Wallace. He received one year of probation and community service for his role.
The Pistons radio broadcast briefly went off the air as Rick Mahorn and Rasheed Wallace tried to stop the fight
As Artest went into the stands, it was the baddest of the Bad Boys who likely stopped the situation from getting worse. Former Piston legend Rick Mahorn was the color commentator that night for Detroit’s broadcast. Mahorn had been involved in many scuffles during the Bad Boy era, several of which came at The Palace, but nothing like this.
In the hysteria of Artest going after fans, Mahorn forgot to disengage from the broadcast, keeping his headset on as he tried to break up the fight. Then, Rasheed Wallace jumped on the soundboard in his role as peacekeeper. The result was radio silence at perhaps the most crucial (and ugly) point of the brawl.
Worldwide Wes helped get Ron Artest off the court
William Wesley, who GQ once called the “most powerful man in sports”, was in attendance for the Palace Brawl. In fact, it was Worldwide Wes who left his seat and ultimately rushed Artest into the locker room that night.
William Wesley: I saw a situation developing that I didn’t think would escalate, but once I realized that it was escalating, I decided to be part of the solution instead of the problem.
The NBA power broker was a personal friend of Rip Hamilton and attended many of his games.
Rick Carlisle ran a clinic on Larry Brown and the Pistons that night
Lost in the brawl, lost in the suspensions and fines and dismantling of the Pacers franchise was the game itself, a masterful coaching performance by Rick Carlisle. Sure, he probably left his players in too long at the end, but in a way, he wanted to send a message. His Pacers were for real, his Pacers were BETTER than the Pistons—and he wanted everyone to know
In the first and second quarter, Carlisle’s half-court mastery produced 59 points, most off which came off set plays. The Pistons had no answer and by the fourth quarter, players’ frustrations boiled over.
Much thanks to Matt Dery, for his recollection of the events that night. You can hear Matt everyday on Detroit Sports 105.1.