Pacers–Pistons brawl

Pacers–Pistons brawl
Indiana Pacers at Detroit Pistons
An overhead shot of the interior of the basketball arena
1 2 3 4 Total
Indiana 34 25 21 17 97
Detroit 27 16 23 16 82
Date November 19, 2004
Arena The Palace of Auburn Hills
City Auburn Hills, Michigan
Attendance 22,076

The Pacers–Pistons brawl (colloquially known as The Malice at the Palace)[1] was an altercation that occurred in a National Basketball Association game between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers on November 19, 2004 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

With less than a minute left in the game, a fight broke out between players on the court. As the fight was being broken up, a drink was thrown from the stands at then Pacers player Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace), while he was lying on the scorer's table. Artest then entered the crowd and sparked a massive brawl between players and fans.

The repercussions led to nine players being suspended without pay for a total of 146 games, which led to $11 million in salary being lost by the players. Five players were also charged with assault, and all five of them were eventually sentenced to a year on probation and community service. Five fans also faced criminal charges and were banned from attending Pistons home games for life. The fight also led the NBA to increase security presence between players and fans, and to limit the sale of alcohol.


Before the brawl

The meeting between the two teams was a rematch of the previous season's heated Eastern Conference Finals, which the Pistons won in six games en route to their first NBA title since the days of the "Bad Boys" of the late 1980s and early 1990s.[2] Because of this, the game received much hype from the media and fans. Having won two games in a row already, the Pacers came into the game with a 6–2 record, while the Pistons, the defending champions, began their season 4–3. The game was televised nationally on ESPN, as well as on the Pacers' and Pistons' local broadcast affiliates, Fox Sports Midwest and Fox Sports Detroit.

The game was, like many previous meetings between the two teams, dominated by defense. The Pacers got off to a quick start, opening up a 20-point lead with seven minutes to go before halftime. The Pistons managed to cut into the lead, trailing by 16 points by halftime. The Pistons opened the third quarter with a 9–2 run, but the Pacers ended it with a buzzer-beating three-pointer and a layup from Jamaal Tinsley heading into the fourth quarter. Richard Hamilton and Lindsey Hunter started the last quarter with consecutive three point field goals, as the Pistons cut into the lead again. But Stephen Jackson's back to back field goals pushed the lead back to 93–79 with 3:52 remaining, essentially putting the Pistons away.[3] Despite the lopsided score near the end of the game, most key players on both teams remained in the game.[4]

The Pacers were led by the 24-point effort of Ron Artest, who scored 17 in the first quarter. Jermaine O'Neal notched a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Tinsley had 13 points, eight assists and a career-high eight steals. Hamilton led the Pistons with 20 points. Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace both recorded a double-double. Despite being outrebounded by the Pistons, the Pacers managed to shoot 41% from the field.[5]


Ron Artest charging into the stands, about to attack the man (in the black shirt) who, he believed, threw the cup at him when actually John Green (the man in the blue shirt) threw the cup.

The brawl began with 45.9 seconds remaining in the game, when Indiana led the game 97–82. Piston center/forward Ben Wallace was fouled from behind by Pacer forward Ron Artest during a lay-up attempt. Wallace responded by shoving Artest in the chest, which led to a physical confrontation between several players from both teams.[6] During the argument, Artest lay down on the scorer's table while putting on a headset to speak with radio broadcaster Mark Boyle (who was hurt later in the altercation). He also taunted Wallace which led Wallace to throw an armband at him. A spectator, John Green, then threw a cup of Diet Coke[7] at Artest while he was lying on the table, which hit Artest in the chest.[6]

Artest responded by running into the stands and attacking a man who he mistakenly believed was responsible. In retaliation of the cup thrown at Artest,[8] teammate Stephen Jackson also ran into the stands shortly after and threw punches at fans, and eventually players from both teams entered the stands while many fans spilled out on to the court to escape the altercation.[6] Another melee started when Artest was confronted on the court by two fans, Alvin "A.J." Shackleford and Charlie Haddad. Artest punched Shackleford and knocked over Haddad in the process. Jermaine O'Neal intervened by punching Haddad in the jaw after a running start. The scene became chaotic and outnumbered arena security struggled to reestablish order.[6]

The remaining seconds of the game were called off and the Pacers were awarded the 97–82 win.[4] More beverages and debris were thrown at Pacer players and other personnel as they were escorted from the court, including a folding chair that was thrown across the crowd that had assembled on the court. No players from either team spoke to the media before leaving the arena. Nine spectators were injured, and two were taken to the hospital.[9] No players reported injuries due to the incident.


Player Team Suspension by the NBA Salary lost
Artest, RonRon Artest* Pacers &10000000000000086000000Remainder of the season
(86 games; 73 regular season and 13 playoff)
Jackson, StephenStephen Jackson* Pacers &1000000000000003000000030 games &10000000001700000000000$1,700,000
O'Neal, JermaineJermaine O'Neal* Pacers &1000000000000001500000015 games 
(originally 25 games, reduced on appeal)
Wallace, BenBen Wallace Pistons &100000000000000060000006 games &10000000000400000000000$400,000
Johnson, AnthonyAnthony Johnson* Pacers &100000000000000050000005 games &10000000000122222000000$122,222
Miller, ReggieReggie Miller Pacers &100000000000000010000001 game &10000000000061111000000$61,111
Billups, ChaunceyChauncey Billups Pistons &100000000000000010000001 game &10000000000060611000000$60,611
Coleman, DerrickDerrick Coleman Pistons &100000000000000010000001 game &10000000000050000000000$50,000
Campbell, EldenElden Campbell Pistons &100000000000000010000001 game &10000000000048888000000$48,888
Harrison, DavidDavid Harrison* Pacers &10000000000000000000000None &10000000000000000000000 None
* indicate players who faced legal consequences; they all received similar sentences:
  • One year probation
  • $250 fine
  • Community service
    (60 hours for Artest, Jackson, and O'Neal; 100 hours for Johnson; quantity unpublicized for Harrison)
  • Anger management therapy


On November 20, 2004, the NBA suspended Artest, Jackson, O'Neal, and Wallace indefinitely until the lengths of their suspensions were officially decided,[9] saying that their actions were "shocking, repulsive, and inexcusable".[10]

The following day, the NBA announced that nine players would be suspended for a total of what eventually became 146 games—137 games for Pacers players and nine games for Pistons players.[11] David Harrison was also seen fighting with fans, but the NBA stated that he wouldn't be suspended because "the incident occurred as the players were attempting to leave the floor".[11]

Artest was given the longest suspension; he was suspended for the remainder of the 2004–05 NBA season, a suspension which eventually totaled 86 games (73 regular season and 13 subsequent playoff games), the longest suspension for an on-court incident in NBA history.[11] The players suspended also lost in excess of $11 million in salary due to the suspensions, with Artest alone losing almost $5 million.[12]

In the week following the announcement of the suspensions, the players' union appealed the suspensions of Artest, Jackson, and O'Neal, saying they thought that David Stern had "exceeded his authority".[11] A federal arbitrator upheld the full length of all suspensions, except that of O'Neal, which was reduced to 15 games.[13] However, the NBA appealed the decision of the arbitrator to reduce O'Neal's suspension in federal court, and on December 24, a judge issued a temporary injunction allowing O'Neal to play, until a full hearing was held on the NBA's appeal.[14]

O'Neal played in two more games before the NBA's case was brought before the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York on December 30. The NBA argued that under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Commissioner David Stern had absolute authority to pass out suspensions and hear appeals for all on-court incidents. But the judge ruled that because O'Neal's behavior was an off-court incident, arbitration was allowed under the CBA, and thus the arbitrator was within his rights to reduce the suspension.[15] Despite O'Neal's successful appeal, no further appeals were made to reduce Artest's and Jackson's suspensions.

Legal charges

On November 30, eleven days after the brawl, John Green and Charlie Haddad were banned indefinitely from attending any events at venues owned by Palace Sports and Entertainment (the owner of the Pistons and then of sports properties in Tampa Bay) and had their season tickets revoked.[16] Green had several previous criminal convictions, including counterfeiting, carrying a concealed weapon, felony assault, and three drunken driving convictions,[17] and he was on court-ordered probation from a DUI conviction at the time of the brawl.[18]

On December 8, 2004, five Indiana players and five fans (John Green, William Paulson, John Ackerman, Bryant Jackson, and David Wallace, the brother of Ben Wallace) were formally charged for assault and battery; Jermaine O'Neal and spectator John Green, who county prosecutor David Gorcyca said "single-handedly incited" the brawl by throwing a cup of liquid at Artest,[8] were charged with two counts, and Artest, David Harrison, Stephen Jackson, and Anthony Johnson were charged with one count each. Three fans, including David Wallace, received one count of the same charge; two fans (Charlie Haddad and Alvin J. Shackleford) who entered the court during the fight were charged with trespassing, and Bryant Jackson, who had prior criminal convictions, was charged with felony assault for throwing a chair.[19] All of the fans involved were banned from attending Pistons games.[20]

On March 29, 2005, Bryant Jackson pleaded no contest to a felony assault charge for throwing the chair, and on May 3, 2005, he was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay $6,000 in restitution.[21] David Wallace was also convicted, and sentenced to one year of probation and community service for punching Pacer guard Fred Jones from behind.[12]

All five players who were legally charged pleaded no contest to the charges. On September 23, 2005, after pleading no contest to their assault charges, Artest, O'Neal, and Jackson were all sentenced to one year on probation, 60 hours of community service, a $250 fine, and anger management counseling.[22] A week later, Harrison received the same sentence,[23] and on October 7, 2005, Johnson, the last player to be charged, received a similar sentence (he was ordered to serve 100 hours of community service).[24]

On March 27, 2006, a jury found Green guilty on one count of assault and battery for punching Artest in the stands, but acquitted him of an assault charge for throwing the cup. On May 1, 2006, Green was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years' probation.[25] On November 7, 2006, the Pistons issued a letter to Green informing him that he was banned for life from attending any Pistons home games, on orders from the NBA.[26] All other fans involved were also banned from Pistons home games for life.


Public reaction

Several NBA players and coaches said the brawl was the worst fight they had ever seen.[27]

In the post-game commentary on ESPN's NBA Shootaround, ESPN studio analysts laid the blame on the Piston fans. John Saunders of ESPN referred to the fans as "a bunch of punks",[28] and Tim Legler said that "the fans crossed the line".[29] Stephen A. Smith stated that "some of them (the fans) should be arrested as far as I'm concerned".[30][dead link] Their commentary prompted ESPN vice president Mark Shapiro to place calls to host Saunders, as well as analysts Legler, Smith, and Greg Anthony. Shapiro felt their commentary was biased. The following Tuesday, Shapiro stated, "I wish the studio hadn't laid the blame solely on the backs of the fans Friday night."[31]

Although a significant portion of media criticism was directed at the Pistons fans, only 46% of the voters in the ESPN SportsNation poll believed that the fans were to blame for the incident.[32] Other commentators said that Artest and the other players involved were to blame.[9][33][34]

Events after the brawl

The Pacers and Pistons played for the first time after the brawl on December 25 at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Pistons won 98–93 without any incidents. Neither Artest nor Jackson played, due to their suspensions; O'Neal played in his first game back after the arbitrator reduced his suspension to 15 games.[35] Three months later, on February 17, 2005, the NBA imposed new security guidelines for all NBA arenas. The new policies included a size limit of 700 mL (24 ounces) for alcohol purchases and a hard cap of two alcoholic beverage purchases for any individual person, as well as a ban of alcohol sales after the end of the third quarter.[36] They also later ordered that each team put at least three security guards between the players and the fans.[12]

On March 25, 2005, the Pacers played at The Palace for the first time since the brawl. The game was delayed 90 minutes after a series of bomb threats were aimed at the Pacers locker room, but the game eventually started after no explosives were found.[37] Two of the key figures in the original incident missed the game, as Artest was still suspended and O'Neal had an injured shoulder. In the game, the Pacers stopped the Pistons' twelve game winning streak with a 94–81 win.[37]

Ron Artest during in-game warm up
A year after the brawl, Ron Artest was traded to the Sacramento Kings.

In the playoffs, Detroit entered as the second seed of the Eastern Conference, and Indiana as the sixth. After the Pistons defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in five games,[38] and the Pacers upset the third seed Boston Celtics in seven games,[39] the two teams met in the second round. Although the Pacers went ahead two games to one,[40] the Pistons clinched the series in six games with three straight wins.[41] After eliminating Indiana, Detroit advanced to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games.[42]

After serving his required suspension of the rest of the 2004–05 season, Ron Artest returned to the Pacers at the beginning of the 2005–06 season. But after playing only sixteen games, he demanded to be traded, and the Pacers put him on the injured list.[43] The then-general manager of the Pacers Donnie Walsh said that Artest's demands were "the last straw",[43] and after more than a month of inactivity, Indiana traded Artest to the Sacramento Kings for Peja Stojaković.[44] Artest faced Ben Wallace for the first time after the fight in November 2006, and finally made his return to Detroit in January 2007. During the Kings' 91–74 loss to the Pistons, Artest was booed constantly, but there were no unusual incidents.[45]

As of the 2010–11 season, only one of the nine players that were suspended after the brawl is still with his original team—Ben Wallace, who signed with the Chicago Bulls as a free agent in 2006, later traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and rejoined the Pistons on August 7, 2009.[46][47] Five players—Billups, Artest, Jackson, O'Neal, and Johnson—were traded to other teams,[44][48][49][50] three players—Miller, Campbell, and Coleman—have retired.[51][52][53] The Pistons advanced to four straight Eastern Conference Finals after the brawl, and six straight overall, making them the first team since the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s to advance to six straight conference finals[54] though they only won the championship once in that streak. However, after losing to the Pistons in the 2005 playoffs, the Pacers have not finished above .500, and they missed the playoffs for five straight seasons from 2006 through 2010.[55]

On November 19, 2009, John Green, one of the fans who sparked the brawl, appeared on ESPN First Take, where he talked about the incident and the changes he had made since then. Green recounted that he had an alcohol problem at the time and had since made an effort to deal with that. He also said that Ron Artest had apologized to him several months earlier, and wished to work together in some type of community services in Detroit.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Hill, Jemele (November 18, 2009). "The Brawl: Were lessons learned?". Retrieved November 19, 2009. 
  2. ^ 2004 NBA Playoff Summary, basketball-reference. Retrieved on September 29, 2008
  3. ^ Big Win Marred by Ugly Brawl, Retrieved on September 27, 2008
  4. ^ a b "Indiana vs. Detroit — Recap — November 19, 2004". November 19, 2004. Retrieved April 26, 2008. 
  5. ^ Indiana Pacers 97, Detroit Pistons 82, basketball-reference. Retrieved on September 27, 2008
  6. ^ a b c d "Artest, Jackson charge Palace stands". November 21, 2004. Retrieved April 26, 2008. 
  7. ^ a b "Fan details strides made since brawl". November 19, 2009. Retrieved November 19, 2009. ""I remember throwing the cup, actually a cup of Diet Coke, not a beer, but I had been drinking and I've had issues with alcohol in the past"" 
  8. ^ a b Peters, Jeremy; Robbins, Liz (December 8, 2004). "5 Pacers and 5 Fans Are Charged in Fight". New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2008. 
  9. ^ a b c "Artest, O'Neal, Jackson, Wallace on hook". ESPN. November 20, 2004. Retrieved May 3, 2008. 
  10. ^ "Statement from NBA Commissioner David Stern Concerning the Altercation During the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers Game Last Night at The Palace of Auburn Hills". November 20, 2004. Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Suspensions without pay, won't be staggered". ESPN. November 21, 2004. Retrieved May 3, 2008. 
  12. ^ a b c "Palace brawl lives in infamy 1 year later". November 26, 2005. Retrieved May 16, 2008. 
  13. ^ Robbins, Liz (December 23, 2004). "N.B.A. Seeks to Overturn Arbitrator's Shorter Ban for O'Neal". New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2008. 
  14. ^ "Final decision expected Dec. 30". ESPN. December 24, 2004. Retrieved May 3, 2008. 
  15. ^ "Judge: Arbitrator had right to shorten penalty". December 30, 2004. Retrieved May 16, 2008. 
  16. ^ "Fans Suspected In Basketbrawl Banned Indefinitely". November 30, 2004. Retrieved May 16, 2008. 
  17. ^ "Report: Fan In White Hat Has Criminal History". November 22, 2004. Retrieved May 16, 2008. 
  18. ^ "Piston Fan's Criminal Past". November 23, 2004. Retrieved May 16, 2008. 
  19. ^ "Five Pacers, seven Pistons fans charged in brawl". Associated Press. December 8, 2004. Retrieved May 3, 2008. 
  20. ^ Dixon, Oscar (December 8, 2004). "Five Pacers, seven fans charged in Palace brawl". Retrieved May 26, 2008. 
  21. ^ "Pistons fan accused of throwing chair during Palace brawl jailed". USA Today. February 2, 2007. Retrieved May 16, 2008. 
  22. ^ Fowler, Bree (September 23, 2005). "Artest, O'Neal, Jackson receive year of probation". Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  23. ^ "Harrison put on probation for role in Palace brawl". September 30, 2005. Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  24. ^ "Pacers' Johnson gets probation, community service for role in NBA brawl". October 7, 2005. Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  25. ^ "Green also sentenced to two years' probation". ESPN. May 1, 2006. Retrieved May 16, 2008. 
  26. ^ McCarthy, Michael (November 7, 2006). "Fan who ignited brawl forever banned from Pistons' home games". USA Today. Retrieved May 16, 2008. 
  27. ^ "Palace Brawl Was 'Ugly Scene,' Says Pistons President". November 19, 2004. Retrieved May 3, 2008. 
  28. ^ "ESPN Commentator Bashes Detroit Fans". Retrieved April 25, 2008. 
  29. ^ Legler, Tim (November 23, 2004). "Always trouble when fans involved". Retrieved April 29, 2008. 
  30. ^ "Pacers and Pistons brawl". Google Video. Retrieved June 1, 2009. 
  31. ^ "ESPN boss makes right call after announcers blame Pistons fans". USA Today. November 20, 2004. Retrieved June 2, 2009. 
  32. ^ "Vote: Pacers–Pistons brawl". ESPN. November 20, 2004. Retrieved May 3, 2008. 
  33. ^ Ratto, Ray (November 19, 2004). "Plenty of blame to go around". Retrieved April 29, 2008. 
  34. ^ Celizic, Mike (December 9, 2004). "Artest, fellow Pacers deserve jail time". NBC Sports. Retrieved April 29, 2008. 
  35. ^ "Indiana's O'Neal shows rust in return". Associated Press. December 25, 2004. Retrieved May 16, 2008. 
  36. ^ "Fans subject to conduct code". ESPN. February 17, 2005. Retrieved May 16, 2008. 
  37. ^ a b "Detroit's 12-game home win streak snapped". March 25, 2005. Retrieved May 16, 2008. 
  38. ^ "Detroit Shows Philly the Door". May 3, 2005. Retrieved May 16, 2008. 
  39. ^ "Big Second Half Leads Pacers to Second Round". May 7, 2005. Retrieved May 16, 2008. 
  40. ^ "Setting the Pace". May 13, 2005. Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  41. ^ "Pistons Retire Miller’s Pacers;Move On to Face Heat". May 19, 2005. Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  42. ^ "Spurs Dethrone Pistons To Take Third NBA Title". June 23, 2005. Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  43. ^ a b "Peeved Pacers will try to move disgruntled star". Associated Press. December 13, 2005. Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  44. ^ a b "Pacers: Artest-for-Peja deal finally done". January 25, 2006. Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  45. ^ "Pistons bury slumping Kings, losers in eight of last nine". January 20, 2007. Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  46. ^ Ford, Chad (July 13, 2006). "Ben Wallace makes it official, signs with Bulls". Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  47. ^ McCosky, Chris (August 7, 2009). "Pistons re-sign Ben Wallace for 1 year". The Detroit News. 
  48. ^ "Harrington, Jackson at heart of Pacers-Warriors deal". Associated Press. January 18, 2007. Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  49. ^ Associated Press (July 24, 2006). "Indiana acquires Armstrong, trades Johnson in deal with Mavericks". USA Today. Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  50. ^ "Pistons acquire Iverson, send Billups and McDyess to Denver". Associated Press. November 14, 2008. Retrieved November 14, 2008. 
  51. ^ Brunner, Conrad (February 11, 2005). "Reggie Says "I Just Believe It's Time"". Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  52. ^ "Elden Campbell Bio". Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  53. ^ "Derrick Coleman Bio". Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  54. ^ "Pistons pull away late to advance to 6th straight conference finals". May 13, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2008. 
  55. ^ "Indiana Pacers". Retrieved May 17, 2008. 

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