The Malice at the Palace

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The Malice at the Palace refers to a fight that broke out during a during an NBA game between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons on November 19, 2004. The game, played at the Pistons’ home stadium, The Palace of Auburn Hills, imploded during the final minute of the fourth quarter, spilling on to the stands where fans and players exchanged blows below it was eventually quelled. The NBA suspended a total of nine players for a period totaling 146 games and led to $11 million in lost salaries.

Events Leading up to the Brawl

The Pistons and the Pacers had met in the Eastern Conference Finals of the previous season, with the Pacers having won the series in six games. The tension between the two teams was therefore still simmering when they met for this regular season game. The Pacers were still the better fancied side and they opened a 20-point lead by midway of the second quarter. The teams exchanged points throughout the third and fourth quarter, with the Pacers able to keep the Pistons at bay.
With 45.9 seconds on the clock and the Pacers leading 97-82, the brawl started.

The focal point was the notoriously provocative Ron Artest of the Pacers. As Ben Wallace went for a layup attempt for the Pistons, Artest slapped him on the back of the head, eliciting an angry reaction from Wallace, who shoved Artest in the face. Players from both sides stepped in to break up the escalating fight and Artest went to take a rest on the scorer’s table.

Suddenly, a cup flew out of the crowd and hit Artest in the chest, spattering liquid all over him. Artest jumped into the stands and grabbed the first Pacers fan he felt was responsible. The man, identified as Michael Ryan, was in fact innocent with the real culprit being another Pacers fan called John Green. A messy melee broke out as more players and fans joined the scene. Punches, shoves and other acts of aggression ensued as game officials and bench staff from both teams tried to separate the warring sides.

Consequences of the Brawl

Indiana Pacers staff hurriedly led their playing staff out of the locker room and out of the city to avoid any possible legal repercussions that could see offending persons detained. However, they could not avoid the league’s hammer which fell with mighty force. The NBA suspended nine players, with Artest rightly getting the harshest punishment. He was suspended for the rest of the season, missing 86 games in total.

Stephen Jackson, also a major aggressor was suspended for 30 games while others in the Pacers outfit to face consequences were Jermaine O’Neal, Anthony Johnson and Reggie Miller who missed 30, 5 and one games respectively. Four Pistons players were suspended for one game each.

Some fans who were involved in the brawl were also banned for life from entering the Pistons’ arena. The NBA instituted various measures aimed at resolving security issues and preventing situations such as this in the future. Artest would be traded to the Kings one year after the incident, but his disciplinary problems persisted.