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Five years since 'Malice at the Palace'

opinion

By tvnz.co.nz basketball reporter John Whiting

Published: 11:06AM Friday November 20, 2009 Source: ONE Sport

This week marks five years since the NBA's infamous 'Malice at the Palace'.

It was a scene that will live on forever as the moment player and crowd interaction went a step too far.

With 45 seconds remaining and the Indiana Pacers leading by double digits over the Detroit Pistons at their home court the Palace of Auburn Hills, Ron Artest sparked a riot when he fouled Ben Wallace.

Wallace responded with an aggressive shove and tensions boiled over for both sides as the referees tried to break up the all-in fight.

A smug Artest then walked over and lay down on the scorers' table while the action continued on around him.

One of the Detroit fans took it too far and threw his drink at Artest, hitting him square on the chest.

Without any hesitation, Artest raced into the stands to drop the fan while team-mate Stephen Jackson followed with punches of his own. Jermaine O'Neal also punched a fan who confronted him on court.

Things went from bad to worse as more fans joined in the scuffle, throwing drinks, food and even chairs.

Several innocent bystanders were injured in the ugly event, including women and children.

Artest, who now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, was suspended for the remainder of the 2003/04 season for his actions.

Several of his team-mates also copped long bans and overall the NBA suspended nine players from both teams for a combined 140 games.

Artest's hefty suspension was the longest ever handed down for a game-time fight.

The fan who threw his drink at Artest and then punched him when he ran into the stands, John Green, was convicted of assault and sentenced to 30 days behind bars.

Green was also banned from Detroit's home court for life.

 

But five years on the anger is well and truly gone and the two men at the centre of the brawl have come together in an attempt at redemption.

Speaking on ESPN, Green said he and Artest had been speaking for some time about the possibility of a community-based project in Detroit.

He said Artest had called his home to personally apologise for what went down.

"He said that he was sorry, that the whole thing embarrassed him as it did me," Green told ESPN.

"He wanted to do something for the community for troubled youth. Of course, I can't do much on this end without him.

"We tried to come up with something to give back to the community and come up with something positive. It's not like it's not always going to be known as the brawl, but maybe we could take something good out of it.

"I remember throwing the cup, actually a cup of Diet Coke, not a beer, but I had been drinking and I've had issues with alcohol in the past.

"I remember [Artest] running into the stands and grabbing the wrong person and I felt bad. I grabbed Artest from behind, the whole thing was kind of a huge blur. It happened so fast."

"Just a very bad scene. It was a scary situation."

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