OT: Malice in the Palace 10th Anniversary

Submitted by Everyone Murders on November 19th, 2014 at 9:13 AM

Today marks the anniversary of a watershed moment in Detroit sports history, and given that many that follow this blog also follow Detroit professional sports, I'm putting it up here for discussion.

10 years ago today, following an on-the-court altercation between Ben Wallace and Ron Artest, Artest thought it would be nice to take a nap on the scoring table.  Indiana and Detroit were dominant forces in the East at the time, and the Pacers were just about done administering a beatdown on the scoreboard, so the mood was negative even before the Wallace-Artest incident.  Artest's act of defiance really set off the crowd - he was just as unlikeable then as he is now, name changes notwithstanding. 

A fan not only called Artest's level of douche, but raised it by tossing a half-empty beer toward Artest, and then the melee ensued.  Artest went into the stands seeking retribution.  Unfortunately, Artest went after a guy still holding his beer - the wrong guy!  (If only Artest had with him a then-popular blue dog to help him decipher the clue that someone usually does not simultaneously [1] throw their beer and [2] still have it.)

10 years later, it seems like something very similar could still go down.  Fans still have very close proximity to the players, and while there is more security, it looks insufficient to anyone who has sat courtside.  The problem of fan involvement has been around for years (e.g., Monica Seles), and I'm not sure what can be done without gutting the fan experience.  Certainly an increased investment in security would make sense.

In any event, happy unhappy anniversary.



joubertly breathing

November 19th, 2014 at 9:42 AM ^

and I'm loving the immediate blaming of the fans by the mothership. John Saunders was especially effective with his "sissies" comment with hysterical arm motions.  Should that fan ever have thrown a half filled cup of beer? No, but to not place the majority of the blam on Artest and Jackson was completely agenda driven.  Also I love how the sideline reporter, Jim, was "2 feet away" and still reported it wrong.


November 19th, 2014 at 12:51 PM ^

I remember watching it live.  My jaw was already on the floor about what was unfolding, and then when Saunders when in that direction, I was pretty sure I was hallucinating.  Didn't he issue an apology later that night?

I actually caught the arraignment on NBATV later in the week, and they showed a lot of video that ESPN never aired.  If you remember, O'Neal had two assualt charges.  One was for the running haymaker we all saw him land on that fan on the floor.  The second, which I think was only aired during the arraignment, was for picking up an 80-year old usher and tossing him over the scorer's table.  it was straight out of Monday Night Raw.

Something crazy was in the air that night and, the way the Pacers were looking in the early part of that season, it probably cost them a title.


November 19th, 2014 at 10:03 AM ^

as it was happening on TV.


You know a situation is bad when Sheed tries to be the peacemaker in the group.


I hope this gets the 30 for 30 treatment soon.  Would love to hear interviews of everyone 10+ years after it happened, including people in the stands, security detail, etc.




November 19th, 2014 at 10:59 AM ^

Grantland did a great oral history:


Also, 'Sheed was regarded as one of the most most level headed guys in the lockerroom and one of the best teammates in the league, at least in his later years. Just not cooperative with the media and incredibly antagonistic toward refs (including being double t'd and thrown out of the McDonald's high school all-america game). But not a surprise to see him trying to calm other players down.

Edit: And I just lost 30 minutes of my life watching this... 



November 19th, 2014 at 9:17 AM ^

I didn't watch a ton of regular season basketball back then but I decided to tune in to watch this one (since the game was kind of a big deal anyway).  So glad that I did.


November 19th, 2014 at 9:23 AM ^

Heheh, will never forget that weekend. My buddy and I were driving to Columbus for The Game, which was the next day. On the way down we were flipping the radio to the Pistons game to see how it was going, but by the time everything happened we were out of range of their station and could only check our phones, which only told us the score. We got to my aunt and uncle's house, where we'd be staying, and my uncle asked if we wanted to hit a bar for a bit, so we did that. It was all over the TV when we got there, we couldn't believe what we were seeing. And of course, being the night before The Game the place was full of Buckeye faithful already in a "Fuck all things Michigan" frenzy, with this only adding to it. Shitty sports weekend all around, 37-21 Bucks the next day. The three-game Troy Smith Torment had begun.  


November 19th, 2014 at 9:28 AM ^

I remember Jim Gray being a little bitch that night.  I thought he was gonna start crying right on the court.  Not the type of guy you should depend on to protect women and children in a situation like that.


November 19th, 2014 at 9:32 AM ^

Pistons came out flat, starters in way to long, Artest going Artest, Wallace overreacting by some measure, Artest going Artest, again.  It was something that could have been avoided at so many turns.  True, none of this absolves Artest for the ultimate act that saw the incident rise to riot level, but that was like a chemistry experiment gone bad.  Just the wrong mixture.

Everyone Murders

November 19th, 2014 at 9:42 AM ^

It seemed to ratchet up, step-by-step, with one bad decision after another.  Artest commits an unnecessarily hard foul.  Wallace overreacting, as you note.  Jackson jumping in the fray.  The benches clearing.

But until Artest lay down on the scorer's table, it seemed like a relatively generic end-of-the-game fight.  For a reviled figure like Artest to taunt the crowd like that was, in my mind, the quantum leap of stupidity.  Should the fan have tossed the beer?  Of course not.  Could you foresee a fan doing something that stupid in the face of Artest's taunt?  Of course.

The other part of this was that the police used the game and arena film to identify many of the culprits and mete out punishment.  The realization that fans were not necessarily anonymous was a bit of a wake-up call for fans everywhere - and that general realization may have been the biggest silver lining to come out of what was otherwise a shitshow pure-and-simple.


November 19th, 2014 at 9:43 AM ^

but if you are asking me for the primary culprit, like the but-for proximate cause, I would truly have to point at Ben Wallace.  The foul really was not that hard, and Ben was pacing and stalking the sidelines for like 5 minutes before the beer hit Artest, with really little other purpose than to just be the big bad dude.  If Ben just settles down and goes to the bench at any time that thing wraps up pretty quickly.

Everyone Murders

November 19th, 2014 at 9:58 AM ^

Of course I agree that Ben Wallace made things worse, and a better-run organization would have gotten him off the court sooner.  But remember that Jackson was getting up in Ben's grill after the fact (Artest wasn't really fighting his own fight - Wallace was huge at the time).  Both teams kept the nonsense going longer than it needed to go.

But what makes this all memorable was Artest going into the stands, shattering the invisible/imaginary wall between the fans and the players.  And Artest laying out on the scorer's table was a passive-aggressive taunt to the crowd.  If everything else remained the same, but Artest did not make a spectacle of himself, we would not be talking about this ten years later.


November 19th, 2014 at 1:01 PM ^

We got our ass-kicked.  That game was a real come-up for the Pacers (until the brawl happened).  Ben was pissed, he hated losing.  Up until that time, Wallace's experience on the Pistons only involved them surpassing other teams.  This was the first time a team was surpassing them.  Wallace didn't deal with that moment well.  But Artest, Jackson, and O'Neal took it from that to crazyville.


November 19th, 2014 at 3:34 PM ^

would have beat them again that year regardless, the Pistons were the better team.  It was a "come up" in the sense of decisively taking a regular season game in November, but it had nothing to do with Indiana surpassing Detroit in the East that year.  I don't think that was happenning anyway.

Bando Calrissian

November 19th, 2014 at 9:54 AM ^

I was in Columbus with the MMB and we'd just gotten to our homestays after a concert at a high school. I had managed to be assigned just about the only Michigan fans in the whole bunch, so we were having a grand old time hanging out at these people's house, and all of the sudden someone notices ESPN was blowing up about the Pistons. Completely bizarre.


November 19th, 2014 at 9:58 AM ^

Quick I need your help how do I start a new thread? Ive been following this blog for years but never posted. I have 2-4 tickets I want to give away to mgoblog users for Saturdays game but I can't figure it out.


November 19th, 2014 at 10:19 AM ^

You don't have enough points to create content (this is to keep trolls from posting inflammatory threads).

There used to be a ticket spreadsheet that you could add your tickets to, but that has been eliminated.  The MGo staff has a suggestion and directions for selling tickets.  Go to the top under "Schedule/Tix" and then "Ticket Spreadsheet" for instructions.

Good luck.


November 19th, 2014 at 10:54 AM ^

As others mentioned, definitely either myself, one of the other mods or anyone with thread-creating powers can help you out if you would like a thread for it.

The replacement for the spreadsheet is TiqIq - LINK. Basically, you can log into it (either create and account or directly through Facebook, if you have it) and list the ticket. You can tag MGoBlog in your description as well, I believe.

The Baughz

November 19th, 2014 at 10:06 AM ^

I will never forget this moment. I was at SRU at the time. I remember it was snowing and not a lot was going on that night. My roommate and I were just hanging out in the dorm and happened to stumble upon the game. Neither of us are big NBA fans, but we decided to watch it for a while. WOW. I am glad we did. I remember running out of our room telling people to come in and look at what was going on. I was in shock. Crazy it has been 10 years already.

Blue Since B.C.

November 19th, 2014 at 10:35 AM ^

Something that I didn't see in the footage was when the dust had (sort-of) cleared and a random Pistons fan walked on the court challenged Jermaine O'Neal.  Said Pistons fan put his fists up, gave Jermaine a "let's go" nod, and one punch later, that fan was out cold.  Camera caught it all.  He prooooobably should have thought twice about that. 

In spite of the ugliness of this, it's still one of the most memorable sporting events of my life.  Really just can't believe that a fight of this magnitude didn't involve the Bad Boys.

I miss the Going-to-Work Pistons.  Hell of a team, in the truest sense of the word. 




November 19th, 2014 at 10:42 AM ^

IT was entrtaining then because of how heated our rivalry was with the Pacers, but looking back this is hard to watch. I'm glad LB grabbed the mic and pleaded for everyone to stop. He seemed truly bothered by it, he was a great coach for us, I hope he gets a standing O when SMU comes to town.

With that being said, "F" O'Neal, Jackson, and Artest!

Those WERE the days, quality professional basketball, at least in the D.


November 19th, 2014 at 10:45 AM ^

I forgot how much I loved that team and LB. There is a great article somewhere about how the whole Pacer fanbse turned on the team and the racial tension between the Pacers and their fans for a long time after. 


November 19th, 2014 at 10:55 AM ^

Cool story bro moment. I was there and was walking out of our section. Then a bunch of people started yelling. A huge crowd gathered around a TV on the concourse. It's was crazy.

1329 S. University

November 19th, 2014 at 11:02 AM ^

who was actually there. Similar situation for me, my group was just leaving our section because the game was out of hand and we wanted to be the traffic. So we're just passing by a tv like you mention when we see everyone there start gathering around. We managed to get back into the section in time to see the majority of it go down in person.

I can't believe it has been 10 years. Dang.


November 19th, 2014 at 11:39 AM ^

I remember the 2004 version of The Game was the day after. Those two events will always be linked in my mind just from their timing. The Freep paid way more attention to the Malice, obviously.

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