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Malice at the Palace: How it happened, why, and what’s happened since

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Samantha Gerlach
I graduated from the University of Toledo in May 2019 with my bachelor's in media communication. I wrote for UT's newspaper and co-produced their news show, UT:10. I love to write; I always say I can write it better than I can say it. 🙂 I'm also a mother to a beautiful 4 year old little boy. I'm a runner; I did my first Free Press Marathon in 2018! I love all things sports and activity, and thank Goodness, because my son keeps me moving!

Who remembers the 2004 game between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers at the Palace of Auburn Hills that would famously and forever be coined, “the Malice at the Palace?”

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The Game

It was November 19, and the Pacers met the Pistons at the Palace, hoping to redeem themselves after the Pistons beat them in the Eastern Conference Finals the previous season.

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There was a minute left in the game, and it looked like the Pacers were going to do that very thing, leading the Pistons 97-82.

As Pistons center Ben Wallace went up for a layup, he was smacked in the back of the head by Pacers forward Ron Artest.

The Brawl

Wallace retaliated by immediately shoving Artest, causing players from both teams to run and try to separate the two men, who were going to start fighting.

While the referees and coaches attempted to regain order, Artest took it upon himself to casually lay on the scorers table. An outraged Wallace tossed a towel at him, and a risky fan threw a Diet Coke at Artest’s chest.

Order was no longer a possibility as Artest ran into the stands and grabbed a fan. Others followed to help Artest, to protect Artest, and to protect fans. Pacers forward Stephen Jackson actually punched a fan.

Pistons fans didn’t represent themselves very well, continuing to throw food and beverages at Pacers players while they were being escorted off the court.

The brawl became so intense that officials decided to end the game with 45 seconds left on the clock.

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The aftermath

Artest was suspended for the rest of the season, playoffs included. Jackson was suspended for 30 games, and Pacers forward-center Jermaine O’Neal, who also ran in the stands to attack fans, was suspended for 15.

Some players and fans were charged with crimes, and some were banned from the Palace for life. Nobody went to jail. Artest was thrown into the locker room by Pacers personnel before police could arrest him.

According to reports, the Diet Coke thrower, John Green, had an extensive criminal history and was even on probation for a DUI when he threw his drink, triggering the riot.

Since then

Fans were disgusted by the Pistons thuggish behavior and the Pistons fans misconduct. Security became a higher priority, and no one has seen a fight like that in the NBA since.

The Pistons and Pacers obviously still play each other, too. Their last meeting was October 28 at the Palace. The Pistons barely slid past the Pacers 96-94.

In September 2011, Artest legally changed his name to Metta World Peace and is now the player development coach for the South Bay Lakers of the NBA G League.

 

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