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Revisiting Malice at the Palace 15 Years After




Well, almost.

The most infamous brawl in NBA history, as the Associated Press described it, happened on November 19, 2004, at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Thus, the epithet ‘Malice at the Palace.’

After 15 years, the Pacers-Pistons brawl remains the darkest hour of the league. The scuffle also changed the way the entire NBA deal with physical confrontations after that.

What happened at the Malice of the Palace?

NBA’s official rules state that:

Violent acts of any nature on the court will not be tolerated. Players involved in altercations will be ejected, fined and/or suspended.

There is absolutely no justification for fighting in an NBA game. The fact that you may feel provoked by another player is not an acceptable excuse. If a player takes it upon himself to retaliate, he can expect to be subject to appropriate penalties. 

Mark Montieth said that you can always ask ten people about what happened and you’d have ten versions of the ‘perfect storm.’ It forever tarnished the image of the entire league and its players. Here’s what transpired.

The Pistons and Pacers are two of the best Eastern Conference teams. The November 19 can be considered as a rematch from the prior season’s conference finals. On the one hand, you have the defending league champion (Pistons); on the other hand, you have a five-injured player deficit (Pacers). The situation did not stop the latter from leading the game with 15 points.

Ben Wallace took the final ball possession and attempted a layup. Stephen Jackson failed to stop him, but Ron Artest approached then gave Wallace a hard foul. Wallace was knocked off and reverted by shoving his hands on Artest’s face and neck. Artest ended up reeling. 

The brawl started. 

Soon, members of both teams were trying to appease Wallace as he was too ready to attack Artest. Artest clowned on him while Wallace was shouting at him. Someone threw something and almost hit Artest. Wallace also threw a towel at him. Artest retaliated but was restrained. A beer cup was seen flying and landed on Artest’s chest squarely, splashing the beer content on his face.

The brawl ensued.

This, by far, was the longest 4 ½ minutes in NBA. 

The punishments mostly profoundly affected the players, including their behaviours off-court to the point of calling them ‘thugs’ as well as the rest of the players on how they need to conduct themselves on-court.

Again, it boils downs to the rules. Then Commissioner David Stern reacted firmly with the suspensions of Artest, Jackson, Wallace, Jermaine O’Neal, and Anthony Johnson, among others. Legal charges were also implemented, resulting in probation, fines, community service, and anger management therapy.

The aftermath of the brawl

Long after the blame game was done and over, the entire league countered the adverse effects of the Malice at the Palace. 

Existing security guidelines were tightened while new guidelines were also introduced. NBA teams increased protective measures for both players and arenas. Each needed to employ at least three security guards to protect the players and the fans.

On the fans’ side, the size limits for alcohol purchases, which is now at 710 mL, were issued. This included the hard cap of two alcoholic beverages per individual. No alcohol must be sold after the third quarter of the game.

To wit, these changes had been the most significant lessons of this notorious NBA melee.

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Does the NBA become a better place after the slew of changes following the cringe-worthy brawl? Let us know!