OT: Comprehensive Grantland Article on Malice at the Palace

Submitted by StephenRKass on February 29th, 2012 at 7:32 PM

There is a very long and comprehensive account at Grantland on the (Link:)  Malice at the Palace. (emphasis:  very, very, very long. Don't go there if you use tl;dr a lot.) Because I am neither a Piston fan nor a Pacers fan, I have always seen this incident from a distance. However, it is a great account of perhaps the most terrifying incident ever in US professional sports. And since many of you are Detroit Pistons fans, you may find it interesting.

The account itself is fascinating, but almost in a Three and Out kind of way: you are reading about a disaster that is sickening, and you just can't stop. For me,  several things stood out.

  • There is an implicit contract or compact between fans and athletes. This incident broke the barriers in the unspoken contract. That agreement, when broken, can lead to terrifying consequences. I guess I think of that because while I am a Michigan fan, I am no more than a fan, and don't pretend to be. (i.e., I will never storm the floor.) Following Michigan sports from mgoblog is so very far from actually being on the field of play.
  • The size and strength of many athletes is beyond the understanding of most people. I am 6'4" and close to 300 pounds, but am small and weak compared to almost any pro athlete. I remember when I lived next to Butch Wade, Roy Tarpley, and Richard Rellford. They were huge, strong, and just in a different dimension.
  • The mentality of a mob that has lost its mind and control is very frightening. The closest I remember Michigan experiencing that was at the 1993 Wisconsin football game in Madison, where 6 Wisconsin fans were crushed to death as they went to rush the field. (Revisiting the Camp Randall 1993 Stampede.)
  • It is amazing how such a turn of events can have such lasting consequences. The Pacers probably had the best team in the NBA, but were destroyed, and still haven't come back fully.





February 29th, 2012 at 7:43 PM ^

Just finished reading this article minutes before you posted it.  It was definitely very interesting, especially looking back on it when you remember watching the brawl on TV.


February 29th, 2012 at 7:49 PM ^

My only comment is that, while it definitely ruined their team that year, front office and personal decisions are most likely what has killed their team since.

Plus, I can't read Grantland. I... I just can't...


February 29th, 2012 at 8:50 PM ^

The front office ultimately puts the team together so in that respect you are right, but this incident absolutely ruined the Pacers at every level of the organization.  There were calls to get rid of the players involved the day following the incident.  The following season, with the majority of the roster returning, things still weren't "right" within the organization and amongst the fans.  There was an uneasiness.  Hoosiers are a proud bunch.  They did not want to be associated with this team.  

The only way the team could ever move forward was to clean house of those involved, from the players to the front office.  Most of the team is no longer around, (we may have one guy left: Jeff Foster) and the front office is new, even the beloved Donnie Walsh has gone elsewhere.

The old regime put together a talented and in many ways explosive team.  The new brass has put together a competitive squad of "high character" guys.    The only way to ever move forward was to start over, and the fans are finally coming back.  


March 1st, 2012 at 10:41 AM ^

Artest/World Peace is a good example that there is more to the game than hops and shots. He is fortunate to have landed with the Lakers and to have a title. As I mentioned in another post, I wasn't sorry to see him leave Chicago. Derrick Rose, while being very gifted athletically, is far, far, more of a team player than Artest ever was or will be. And MJ never had real success until he learned that it was a team game, and not just one star with a cast of interchangable supporting characters.


February 29th, 2012 at 11:39 PM ^

And I respect that others like to read Grantland, but I can't do it.

He started focusing on the excellent "30 for 30" documentaries and his podcast (which was a bummer because I have more opportunities to read discretely than listen discretely). It just seemed like he began to rely on some of his more popular gimmicks in his articles, to the point where every article seemed to boil down to some mix of gambling, Jersey Shore, and (borderline excessive) Boston homerism. I mean, it just got old when every week it was talking about how great (insert member of Big Three here) is, or taking a shot at Kobe, or comparing some current sports drama to a fight on last weeks Jersey Shore.

Again, I respect that others enjoy Simmons, I'm just not one of them anymore. I used to enjoy his football breakdowns until that became a podcast thing, though.


February 29th, 2012 at 7:52 PM ^

I actually was at the game and it was almost a surreal feeling at the end. The group I was with was in a suite and the security teams came up probably 10-15 min after and gave us the choice to leave or be locked in the suite. We actually sat and watched a lot of the footage on tv from inside the palace. By the time we left I think that there were state, local, county police everywhere as they were concerned over fans rioting. I thought it was fairly calm and organized walking out of the building, but it was something to see.


February 29th, 2012 at 8:12 PM ^

Donnie Walsh (CEO and president, Pacers): Ronnie did try to get away from it because he had been told, "If you see yourself getting too excited, disengage and get yourself out of it and get your thoughts together." That's why he went down and laid down on the table. It was so he wouldn't get all excited and do something wrong.


Bull fucking shit

03 Blue 07

March 1st, 2012 at 12:01 AM ^

See, this is strange. I was watching live that night, have seen it many times since, and always thought that Artest was trying to do that- walk away/disengage. I thought it live, I think it now. I didn't think that was up for debate. It was after that-- while he was lying down-- that things went from "crappy NBA fight" to "all out shit-show," and the moment when it turned was when Artest, while lying down, got pelted with a full drink.. Really, the pattern-- a person "disengaging" from a quickly-escalating situation, then to flip it back on immediately at a seemingly-lesser provocation--- is one that, if you've witnessed many street fights/altercations, isn't uncommon, and is psychologically explainable: heightened emotions and adrenaline.

The Wonderful 135

March 1st, 2012 at 11:41 AM ^

Ahhhh.  Thank you.  They may have thought that him laying on the table was disengaging.  But after the hard foul, and the large lead, and on an opponent's court, it looked like he was just showing what he could get away with.  I was kind of shocked when I read that statement.  That wasn't disengaging, that was taunting.

03 Blue 07

March 1st, 2012 at 3:56 PM ^

I can see how you would say that. I just look at the same thing and have a different opinion. Also, Stephen Jackson is insane- I think we can all agree on that. At the same time, holy shit, if I were in a foxhole, I'd want that guy with me. His loyalty, while reckless and damaging to many, many people, is admirable. 

I Bleed Maize N Blue

March 1st, 2012 at 5:14 PM ^

He might not have meant it as a taunt.  But Ben Wallace might have felt like it was, still yelling at him, while he's lying down playing with headphones.  And he was still out in the open, which was where that idiot could target him with a cup filled with beer.  If he had been sitting on the bench, he would have been surrounded by his players and staff, so it would be far less likely for him to be hit by a beer and go off.

Jackson certainly didn't help things, yelling back at the Pistons and then following Artest into the stands.  I am far more sympathetic to Pacers who punched those idiot fans who went onto the floor to talk shit to them.


February 29th, 2012 at 8:26 PM ^

I remember listening to one of the Detroit radio shows shortly after the thing went down, and someone called in who was at the game with the guy Artest mistakenly attacked in the stands. Apparently the exchange didn't happen exactly as described in the article. The caller was laughing because when Artest grabbed the guy and said, "did you do it?" the guy responded with his full name - "I didn't do it, Ron Artest!"


February 29th, 2012 at 10:23 PM ^

I don't post often, but this topic made me have to respond. The guy that he mistakenly attacked was my wife's brother. He was scared to death seeing such a big dude coming at him. He thought Artest was going to attack the idiot sitting next to him, but he got attacked instead. It is true.....he did say "it wasn't me Ron Artest". To this day we laugh about how that was his response. However he did get his picture on the cover of Sports Illustrated.


February 29th, 2012 at 11:30 PM ^

If I remember right he said Artest grabbed his throat and then had a death grip on his collar and pulled him on the ground. At this time Jackson went in the stands and was standing next to Artest and my brother in law's friend threw a beer at Jackson to get him away and then he got punched. To this day my wife's brother doesn't like talking about it.


February 29th, 2012 at 8:47 PM ^

That was a good article, of the behind-the-scenes kind you don't normally see, but I sure wouldn't call it "comprehensive."  It was seven-eighths Pacer perspective plus Jim Gray going "Detroit is full of dickheads."

Also, Stephen Jackson comes off like a thug.  A thug who knows what he's doing is thuggery and not socially acceptable, but a thug.

O'Neal, on the other hand, sounds pretty reasonable.  Except for one thing: he's brain-dead if he can't see the connection between "the hip-hop mentality" that the players are accused of, and the gangsta attitude of guys like Jackson.  Jermaine, it's not the music itself, it's that Stephen Jackson sounds like a fucking Crip.

Edit for clarification re: Jackson - the Jackson of 2004 comes off that way.  Less so today.

snarling wolverine

February 29th, 2012 at 8:58 PM ^

It is mostly from the Pacer perspective, but that makes sense if you think about it.  It wasn't really a Pistons vs. Pacers thing; it was Pacers vs. fans that made the national news.  The Pistons weren't that involved once it spilled into the crowd.  And the Pistons had a friendly crowd, so they weren't going to have anything thrown on them.


February 29th, 2012 at 9:09 PM ^

In one sense you're spot on, but it still comes off slanted.  Jackson is saying crap like he was worried about what would happen when the "felons" in the upper deck started coming down.  Really?  I get that the Pacers' perspective would be that everyone was against them, but since all they saw were the fans who went after them, guess what the impression becomes?  And the only Detroit voices quoted (probably selectively) were only quoted with things like "welp, another black mark on the city."


February 29th, 2012 at 9:15 PM ^

Agreed. That point is especially ridiculous. I've sat pretty much everywhere you can at the Palace (courtside once, upper deck several times, lower deck several times). Especially then when tickets were hard to come by, it's just a ridiculous statement. I understand the mentality that a lower socio-economic class citizen would have worse tickets, but come on. 


March 1st, 2012 at 7:11 AM ^

The author says in the epilogue he requested interviews with Rasheed and Rip, but that they never responded. Wonder why he didn't try to interview Ben, but I'd expect the Pistons managemenet wouldn't be thrilled with revisiting the story. Point is, you can't force people to sit for an interview.

los barcos

February 29th, 2012 at 8:44 PM ^

i came away thinking that piece had a very pro-pacer slant and was written in a way that made detroit look bad.

the way they describe "20,000 fans throwing chairs and ready to fight" really seems a bit exaggerated to me.  at one point, one of the pacers comments that he was afraid for his life beause he was worried the "thugs" from the upper decks were making their way towards the stands, as if they were some maurading gang of mongols.

i would hardly call that situation life-threatening for the players. 


March 1st, 2012 at 7:17 AM ^

The point is that that's how they perceived it. The point of oral history isn't to get at absolute truth, it's to understand how someone perceived the events going on around them, and how those perceptions shaped their actions.

snarling wolverine

February 29th, 2012 at 8:53 PM ^

I remember watching that game and giving up on it with 4-5 minutes left, figuring it was over.  Whoops.

Great article.  I never knew that part about the Pacers rushing out to dodge the police after the game.  


February 29th, 2012 at 8:51 PM ^

Nothing compares to that memory.

Also, the weakest part of the article was Reggie Miller begging the police officer to stow his pepper spray so it wouldn't ruin his suit. How fitting.

Maximinus Thrax

February 29th, 2012 at 9:01 PM ^

I remember sitting at the bar at Logan's Alley in Grand Rapids by myself watching the game.  It was a Friday night, and nobody else at the bar was really paying attention at all except one other guy who like me, was totally fascinated by what was going on.  I remember looking around and being amazed that hardly anybody else that was there cared in the slightest about it.  They probably had to wait until the AM for Sportscenter to tell them how important it was before they would care.  Or else they were all just busy chasing tail.


What a memory....actually giving a damn about what the Pistons were doing, and on a Friday night even!


February 29th, 2012 at 9:00 PM ^


It was an interesting read, but I agree with some other posters that it was very much favoring the Pacers. What sickens me is how much the fans are spoken ill of here. Yes, it was wrong for the fans who were throwing things or to try and push the altercation forward to do so. However I strongly disagree that this was "all the Pistons fault" as alluded to at the beginning of the article, or that the fans were solely at fault.

Without question, this thing escalated like crazy. But to me there's still no excuse for Artest to run into the stands with intent to retaliate (and eventual success). It was certainly wrong for the fan who threw the drink at him, but, as the argument has been rehashed over and over since the incident, Artest as player needs to be above that and not go into the stands. That's where it begins and that's where it gets really out of hand. 

I disagree also with the "he was laying on the table to calm down" notion. He was, in my opinion, clearly showboating.

I do agree that some of the people involved were just trying to do good and were in a fight for what they thought were their lives. I can understand what some of them were thinking and trying to do.

In the end, no one is innocent here, but in my opinion, it's preposterous to paint the Pacers as misunderstood heroes here.


February 29th, 2012 at 9:17 PM ^

You know in Home Alone 2 when Kevin and Buzz get into that little fight and then Buzz lays on the apology as disgustingly thick as he can so that when Kevin spazzes out, he looks even worse than before?  That's what Artest was doing by laying on the scorer's table, IMO.  Showboating, yes.... in that way that says, "everybody look at me and give me credit for being so calm and remorseful."


February 29th, 2012 at 9:24 PM ^

I personally don't think that the article is painting the Pacers as any sort of "hero."  But maybe I'm a bit of a homer?  Anyway, to me it painted the brawl in a different viewpoint, that of the Pacers players and personnel.  Anyone of us who hasn't played professional sports has viewed this situation as most have: as fans.  If you have attempted to put yourself in the Pacers/Pistons position you surely could not have done it justice.  

I believe if you ask anyone (fans, NBA players, NFL, MLB players) the vast majority would say that Artest was wrong to go into the stands, but I'm sure opinions would differ regarding the situation after that amongst fans and athletes. I think that's why the fans are spoken ill of.  It's given from a players and personnel perspective.  The piece would have a completely different feel if written from a fans viewpoint.

FWIW the only person Pacer's fans were ever really pissed off at besides Artest, Jackson, and O'Neil was Wallace.  Most of us, atleast the 18-30 male demographic, agreed we'd probably get caught up in the "mob mentality."  BUT, there is no way I'd ever get on the court as a fan in that situation. 


February 29th, 2012 at 10:52 PM ^

There are so many guilty parties . . . 

  • The fan who threw the drink.
  • The fans who went on to the floor.
  • The lack of security and police presence.
  • The failure of the refs to call fouls.
  • The thug mentality among so many of the players.

No one comes off looking good in this. But the chief culprit, which I believe the article portrayed as being guilty, was Metta World Peace, formerly known as "Ron Artest." He went after Wallace, he laid on the scorekeeper's table, he horsed around, he went into the stands, he lost his mind. As a Bulls fan, I was not sad to see him leave Chicago, talent that he was.

I do think that there are some Detroit and Pistons homers at this site, but I suppose that's to be expected. You can see, however, that it is critical for the league to have zero tolerance for this kind of thing ever happening again.