November 19, 2004. The ugliest incident in NBA history, and possibly American sports altogether, occurred 12 years ago today. For many, we remember exactly where we were when Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest made the fateful decision to stampede into the stands toward a man standing frozen in fear and displaying the type of disbelief consistent with watching an action movie come to life before one’s eyes.
We’re now almost a full NBA generation removed from The Malice at the Palace, so we thought it’d be a good time to check in with the event’s primary characters. Where’s Ron-Ron now? And did anything ever happen to the guy who threw the cup in the first place?
Then: Artest was the most prominent figure in the Malice at the Palace, as it was he who committed the initial foul on Ben Wallace that incited the on-court brawl. And it was he who opted to leap into the Palace crowd and begin steamrolling fans at random after having a plastic cup lobbed upon his chest while he lay on the scorers table. As a result, Artest received a 73-game suspension from the NBA, the largest in league history.
Now: Ron Artest returned from his suspension then bounced around from team to team before becoming a key contributor on a Los Angeles Lakers championship club in 2010, even managing to thank his psychiatrist during his post-championship interview. A year later, he’d change his name to Metta World Peace.
After being waived by the Knicks in February 2014, he signed with the Chinese Basketball Association’s Sichuan Blue Whales, where he changed his name once more to “The Pandas Friend“.
Injuries and altercations cut Artest’s career short in China and eventually Italy. Now, at age 37, Artest is stateside once more, returning to his Metta World Peace moniker. He played in 35 games with the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2015-2016 season, averaging 5.0 points in 16.9 minutes per game. So far this season, he has only played in four games, averaging three minutes per contest.
Then: Wallace was one of the primary instigators of the initial on-court brawl. Big Ben responded to a sneaky blow to the back of the head from Ron Artest by violently shoving Artest in the face and neck. Wallace continued to pursue Artest after the push, leading to a potential escalation of action from both teams. Wallace received a five-game suspension for his role in the fracas.
Now: After the infamous Palace brawl, Ben Wallace spent two more years with the Pistons before signing with the Chicago Bulls. After a stopover in Cleveland, Wallace returned to the Pistons in 2009, sporting a new number and new hairdo, but still showing flashes of what he did best:
Wallace retired in 2012 at age 37. He finished his career as a four-time All-Star and four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. In October of 2015, it was revealed that Wallace would join former teammate Chauncey Billups in having his No. 3 jersey retired by the Pistons. On January 16, 2016, the Pistons retired Wallace’s No. 3 jersey in front an amazing crowd at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Then: Stephen Jackson worked his way to the forefront of the Palace brawl with his wild, challenging antics, including but not limited to: untucking his jersey and squaring up Lindsey Hunter during the initial scuffle, following Ron Artest into the stands and throwing windmill haymakers at anyone unlucky enough to be within striking distance, and strutting his way to the locker room at the conclusion of the embarrassing proceedings while proclaiming “We stick together!”
Jackson earned the second worst punishment of all involved, in the form of a 30-game suspension without pay.
Now: Jackson would go on to play an integral role for the 2007 “We Believe” Golden State Warriors. His seven 3-pointers in Game 6 of their first round series helped clinch a legendary defeat of the No. 1 seeded Dallas Mavericks.
Jackson maintained a reputation as being a wonderful teammate for the duration of his NBA career, though off-court issues seemed to follow him throughout. Jackson was charged with criminal recklessness in ’06 after firing off five rounds outside a club and was caught on tape choking former NBA point guard Steve Francis in 2013. Jackson was waived by the Los Angeles Clippers in January 2014, effectively ending his NBA career.
Then: O’Neal is best remembered in the Pistons/Pacers brawl as he who unleashed the sliding falcon punch upon an unsuspecting Pistons fan who’d wandered onto the floor during the dispute. O’Neal then struggled to get back to the locker room when at least one chair was flung in his direction. His day was capped off by fans dousing him with soft drinks and popcorn as he entered the exit tunnel. O’Neal received a 25-game suspension as a result of his actions.
Now: Similar to Jackson, it seems as though the 2013-2014 season served as O’Neal’s last in the NBA. A six-time All-Star, O’Neal remained a worthy competitor well into his mid-30’s. In fact, O’Neal continued to haunt the Pistons all the way to his last season, recording an impressive double-double in his final career visit to The Palace:
Then: John Green (below, in blue) is the Detroit native who threw the cup that connected with Ron Artest and nearly incited a riot. To add insult to injury, Green then harnessed Artest from behind and landed multiple punches on the Pacers forward after Artest had accosted the wrong fan.
Now: Green was convicted of misdemeanor assault and served 30 days in jail for his misdeed in 2006. The punishment was not for throwing the cup, but rather the aforementioned punches to Artest’s head from behind.
In 2012, it was reported that Green and Artest are now good friends.
Final Note: If you haven’t read already, check out Grantland’s incredible oral history of The Malice at the Palace.