November 19, 2004, is a dark day in NBA history. It was the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons. With only 45 seconds left in the game, Ron Artest and Ben Wallace began a fight that turned into a full-blown brawl.
It quickly became one of the most infamous—and ugliest moments—in sports history. This is what really happened between Artest and Wallace at what is now known as "the Malice at the Palace."
The Dirty Fight Began With 45 Seconds Left In The Game
Indiana was leading 97-82 with 45.9 seconds left in the game when Ben Wallace was fouled by Ron Artest. Despite the game already being decided, Wallace then shoved Artest back by hitting him in the face with both hands.
This led the benches to clear as teammates tried to quickly get in between the two. The Pistons coach wasn't concerned at first, since most fights calm down after a few seconds, but this one was much different.
It Was A High Stakes Game To Begin With
The courtside brawl didn't exactly come as a surprise. There was already tension in the air because the Pacers and Pistons had faced off at the previous Eastern Conference Finals. The Pistons ended up winning in 2003 and went on to win the NBA Championship. Needless to say, the Pacers were looking for revenge.
There was also some bad blood between the players. Wallace later said Artest had warned him he at the beginning of the game that he would be a target.
Things Got Worse When Artest Tried To Grab The Microphone
The Pacers and Pistons teammates finally began to break up the fight. Wanting to make a statement, Artest decided to make it way over to broadcaster Mark Boyle. Artest took a headset and laid down on the scorer's table to relax.
Then, out of nowhere, a cup came flying in from the stands. Artest was already heated and made a mad dash into the stands. He even ended up trampling Boyle, which ended up fracturing five of his vertebrae.
It Was A Dumb Bet That Led To The Infamous Cup Being Thrown
According to Artest, the Malice at the Palace escalated because of a $50 bet between a spectator named John Green—the man in the blue shirt—and a stranger. In an interview, Artest said "It was the other guy who was next to him [John Green]. The reason he raised his hand was that he bet John, who hit me with the cup, $50 that he could hit me. So when John hit me, the guy that raised his hand lost the bet."
The fans were also said to both be drunk at the time and clearly didn't understand how angry Artest was.
Pacers And Pistons Team Members Followed Artest Into The Stands
After the cup hit Artest, Stephen Jackson follows his teammate into the stands. Jackson didn't hold back, and ignited a fight with fans during the scuffle. Meanwhile, Artest hit a fan as John Green fought another player. The violence continued for what seemed like forever.
Following the incident, the Ben and brother David Wallace denied their involvement, claiming neither was near the brawl when it occurred. But, video evidence emerged of David being involved, who would receive one year of probation and community service.
Artest Claimed That He Wasn't Trying To Hurt Anyone
Artest later claimed he wasn't trying to hurt anyone when he charged the stands but the video footage showed otherwise.
In a later interview, Artest said, "I wasn't going there to punch him, I didn't want it to escalate like that but I did want to kind of grab him. Not quite choke him, but more like the shoulder area and just kind of shake him for a long period of time. I was super upset I was so mad that I got hit with that cup."
Worldwide Wes Had To Practically Drag Artest Off The Court
William Wesley was one called the "most powerful man in sports" by GQ. Wesley was in earlier in attendance for another fight; the Palace Brawl. It was he who left his seat and ultimately rushed Artest into the locker room that night. In an interview with Grantland, Wesley described his actions when the melee broke out.
"I saw a situation developing that I didn't think would escalate, but once I realized that it was escalating, I decided to be part of the solution instead of the problem."
Artest Was Suspended For The Rest Of The Season
Artest was the key player in the incident. For his actions, he was suspended for the remainder of the season, a total of 86 games, the longest in NBA history. The suspension marked the end of his time in Indiana as he was traded to Sacramento the following season.
Eventually, Artest made his way to the Lakers, helping the team win the NBA Finals in 2010. This was around the same time he would legally change his name to Metta World Peace. After his playing career, Artest became a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother.
It Didn't Help That One Of The Officials Was Corrupt Tim Donaghy
Yes, Tim Donaghy is the same official who served 15 months in federal prison for gambling on games. In an interview with USA Today in 2014, he described the moment where it was more than an in-game scuffle.
"Probably when Ron Artest started to go into the stands. I tried to grab him, he just broke away very easily and when I looked up there were other players in the stands and punches were being thrown. So at that point, it was more serious than anything we were involved in ever before."
A Fan Tried To Sue Jermaine O'Neal
Charlie Haddad was one of the fans who ran on the court. He would confront the Pacers players, taking a running haymaker from Jermaine O'Neal. Following the incident, the fan tried to sue the power forward, claiming he suffered serious injuries as a result of the punch.
Haddad flew to Las Vegas the day after the brawl, and has been a regular visitor to the gambling mecca ever since. The case was dismissed, but he was charged with violating a local ordinance against entering a performance space.
Reggie Miller Got Suspended For Absolutely No Reason
Despite being on the Pacers, the Hall of Famer was one of the forgotten individuals in the incident. Miller would receive a one game suspension even though he wasn't playing and had a limited role with the team.
However, the incident didn't do too much to impact Miller's public perception. Following his retirement in 2005, Miller announced his plans to join TNT as an analyst. Since 2011, the five-time All-Star has worked as a TV analyst for the NCAA March Madness Tournament.
John Saunders Blamed The Fans, Not The Players
Most people may remember Saunders calling Pistons fans a "bunch of jerks." The Canadian-American sports journalist, along with the NBA crew, took it one step further by saying they didn't blame players for going into the stands.
In addition, ESPN executive vice president Mark Shapiro criticized the announcer's stances and second-guessed their commentary on the brawl that occurred. This all happened at a time when Facebook and Twitter weren't being developed.
John Green And Ron Artest Eventually Made Amends
John Green was the fan in attendance who instigated the brawl, who threw the plastic cup. In 2009, five years following the Malice, Green and Artest called into Detroit's Drew and Mike Show at the same time. The two "friends" confirmed their reunion on air made it clear that they put the incident behind them.
At least the small forward was willing to, Green continued to milk his night of infamy. Did we mention Green earned himself a lifetime ban from the Palace?
Pistons Radio Broadcast Briefly Went Off The Air
Former Piston legend Rick Mahorn was the color commentator that night for Detroit's broadcast. Mahorn himself has been involved in many scuffles during the Bad Boy era, but nothing like this.
At the moment Artest went after fans, Mahorn forgot to disengage from the broadcast, keeping his headset on as he attempted to break up the fight. Then, Rasheed Wallace jumped on the soundboard to keep the peace. The result was nothing but radio silence at the most crucial point of the brawl.
David Harrison Went Broke
A rookie during the brawl, Harrison was never suspended by the league. However, the former center did receive a fine, community service, and probation as part of the legal proceedings resulting from the incident. The Colorado alum would play with the Pacers until 2008 before drug problems ended his career.
Harrison averaged five points per game with Indiana, and played in China for three seasons. After struggling with financial problems, he took a job working at McDonalds. Currently, Harrison has a small mobile game application company called Kage Media Groups LLC.
Anthony Johnson Found Luck Later In His Career
Point guard Anthony Johnson was coming off a breakout season when the fight broke out. Unlike the other players involved who received harsher punishments, Johnson earned a five-game suspension from the league.
With a light suspension, Johnson continued to play a prominent role in Indiana until 2006. He would later be traded to the Dallas Mavericks for a three-player package. Johnson would play for three more teams following his tenure in Dallas. After making the 2009 NBA Finals with the Orlando Magic, Johnson played one more season and retired at the end of 2010.
Jermaine O'Neal Bounced Around
O'Neal was the star of the Pacers at the time of the brawl. For his actions, the power forward was handed a 25-game suspension that would be decreased to 15 games by an appeal. The suspension, as well as injuries limited the big man to 44 games in 2004-2005.
After three more seasons in Indiana, O'Neal would bounce around with Miami, Toronto, Boston, Phoenix and Golden State. The former Trail Blazer would play his final season with the Warriors during the 2013-2014 season.
Stephen Jackson's Journeyman Career
Jackson's image took a major hit after the incident. A 30-game suspension would be handed to the shooting guard for his actions. He would remain with the Pacers until midway through the 2006-2007 season, and was traded to the Warriors.
The McDonald's All-American would be a part of the Golden State team who pulled off the biggest upset in NBA playoff history. He would spend the final years of his career playing with Milwaukee, San Antonio, and the Los Angeles Clippers. In 2017, Jackson joined the BIG3 basketball league, playing for the Killer 3's.
Pistons Coach Larry Brown Wasn't All That Concerned
Most fights that occur in the NBA don't last long, but not this particular bout. As the altercation continued to escalate, Artest added to the antics. He laid down on the scorer's table to relax while putting on a headset to speak with Pacers radio announcer Mark Boyle.
While the microphone wasn't live, Boyle recalled that the broadcasting team was well-aware of Artest's personality. There was no way there were going to put him on the microphone in that situation.
The Game Was Dominated By Defense, Which Left Some Players Frustrated
The Pacers were off to a quick start as they opened up a 16-point lead heading into half-time. The Pistons opened the third quarter on a good run thanks to Richard Hamilton and Lindsey Hunter, but the Pacers continued their dominance well into the fourth quarter.
Stephen Jackson pushed the Piston advantage to 14 with back-to-back field goals and less than four minutes remaining. Despite the score, most key players on both teams were still in the game.
Coleman Wanted Blood
Matt Dery, who was the sports director for WDFN The Fan (the Pistons' flagship station), sat courtside during the scuffle and heard some interesting remarks. While Artest and Wallace were at mid-court, Stephen Jackson came to taunt the Pistons' bench. Sitting at the end was Derrick Coleman, a veteran 6'10" tall whose career was at its end.
Coleman wasn't the guy to toy around with. As Jackson continued taunting the players, Coleman stepped up and calmly told him: "I'll kill you. I will kill you."
Rick Carlisle And The Pacers Ran A Clinic
Lost in the suspensions, flying fists, and thrown beer is the fact that Rick Carlisle coached his Pacers stupendously on the night of the brawl. Besides leaving his stars in for too long at the end, everything else was masterful. He coached them to a tune of 59 first half points and the Pistons became distraught.
By the end of the game, tempers reached a point of no return, and we're willing to bet the beating the Pacers provided played a part.
Jackson Thought His Career Was Over
After a ridiculous event like this, the security of your career is undoubtedly on the line. That realization hit Stephen Jackson pretty hard after the brawl. In an interview, Jackson revealed what he and Metta World Peace discussed after the quarrel.
"His first question to me (was),'You think we’re gonna get in trouble?’ Jackson said of Metta World Peace, formerly Ron Artest. "I said, 'You’re lucky we have a job.' Trouble? We passed trouble. We’re gonna get kicked out of the league. I thought my career was over."
A Hard Foul Began This
Stemming to the previous season when the Pacers played the Pistons in the playoffs, a Pistons player committed a hard foul on someone. That's something players don't forget. Before the malice started, Jamaal Tinsley reminded World Peace about the foul. Stephen Jackson wishes he should have stopped it.
"If I'd have known that, I would’ve stopped it," Jackson said. "We all know Ron wasn’t in his right mind. He didn’t need a battery pack in his back to do something stupid. He’d do that on his own."
Jackson Wasn't Concerned With Fines
Stephen Jackson has always had a reputation for being a great teammate. The forward is going to stick up for his team no matter what the case and this brawl proved that for sure. Once the beer struck World Peace, Jackson didn't hesitate.
"I didn't even think twice. I didn’t think, 'Oh, I might get fined.’ No. These guys are like my brothers. I was raised to protect them and be with them through thick and thin. When he went, I didn’t think twice. I did what I had to do."
No Regrets From Jackson
Yes, what transpired that night wasn't good for sport or humanity, but what's done is done. Would you have stuck up for your teammates had they jumped into the crowd and started fighting? Isn't that part of the brotherhood? Jackson has some interesting thoughts.
"I regret how we handled it," he said. "I don't regret defending my teammates. I regret going into the stands and punching fans. I regret that totally." He feels bad about what he did, but by the sounds of it, he might've done it again.
Ten Years After The Fact
This is one of those events that your organization should keep behind them. No one involved with the Pacers or Pistons front office should have gotten any more comments or questions concerning the brawl. But as the ten year anniversary came, the media swarmed.
That's when the president and chief operating officer Rick Fuson had to shut things down."In the aftermath, we repeatedly expressed our regret and disappointment but after a number of years came to a collective decision that we would be moving on," Fuson said. "Therefore, we will not comment further and instead continue to focus on the positive accomplishments of the team and the franchise on and off the court."
Adam Silver Explained How The Teams Could Recover
At the ten year anniversary, then-President of NBA Entertainment and current commissioner Adam Silver broke down the process of recovery. Of course, wasn't simple, but it was doable. Time was a key ingredient.
"In part, there were concrete steps they could take but I think there was also a realization that a certain amount of time needed to go by, almost as in any mourning process before people were ready to turn the corner," Silver said.
Reggie Miller Recalls The Moment
The legendary sharpshooter Reggie Miller was there, but he wasn't playing. He would ultimately receive a one-game suspension, but he had the advantage of perspective. He saw things that others didn't.
"I tell people that the whole ordeal may have lasted five to seven minutes, eight minutes, Miller stated. "But it was in such slow motion during the middle of it, it felt like we were out there a half-hour." That must have been the wildest eight minutes of Miller's life.
How Miller Wishes He Could Have Helped
Twelve years after the fateful night, Reggie Miller had an interview about life, and the brawl came up. Miller wasn't playing that night, but he was an important player for the Pacers no matter what. His word meant a lot.
"One thing I wish I would've done is gone to Coach Rick Carlisle … and told him to pull the starters," Miller said. We've touched on that topic earlier in the article and we agree with Miller on this one.
How It Could Have Been Ended
The events that lead up to the eventual punishment of fans and players all played an important part in the grand scheme of things. It was like an advanced domino effect. Mark Montieth, who used to cover the Pacers for the Indianapolis Star, has an interesting theory.
"If Artest doesn't go lay down on that scorer’s table, it doesn’t happen," Mark began. "If the fan doesn’t throw the beverage, it doesn’t happen. There was a continuation there, a succession of things. You take away any one of them and the whole thing doesn’t happen."
Mike Brown Wanted More Ref Interference
Those close to the game who weren't playing saw things heating up. Mike Brown was the assistant coach at the time and he had a bird's eye view of the steamy battle. Something he wanted to see was the referees becoming more involved.
"There was a foul at one end, another foul, and then a borderline foul and problems beyond the foul," said Brown. "The game was out of hand. I was hoping the officials were going to kick both players out."
Wallace's Brother Had Passed Away
Something that could have added fuel to Ben Wallace's fire was the recent passing of his brother. His brother battled brain cancer for some time leading up to his untimely death. He passed away not too long before the big fight and Stephen Jackson knew not to mess with him.
"Ben was the wrong person [to foul] because, if I'm not mistaken, his brother had just passed and he was going through some issues," Jackson said. "I was guarding Ben, I let him score. I was trying to let the clock run out. And Ron just came from out of nowhere and just clobbered him."
World Peace Told Wallace He Would Do It
How bold and out of your mind do you have to be to threaten someone who almost twice your size and just as scary? Metta World Peace doesn't know what fear is, clearly. Ben Wallace revealed what World Peace told him moments before things took off.
"He told me he was going to hit me, and he did it," Wallace said. "That was just one of those things. It happened in the heat of the battle."
Tim Donaghy And The Others
This fight was so messed up that the refs had to take a moment to think while punches flew. We know that sounds bad, but to let Tim Donaghy tell it, that's the path they could go down. These players were so mad and full of strength that there was only so much you could do.
"After we tried to break it up and knew that wasn't possible, we tried to just step back and view what was going on, so that when we started the game back up, we’d have an idea of who needed to be ejected and what actions we were going to take," said Donaghy.
Jim Gray Opens Up
Who really made this horrific event come about? Besides the domino effect that we touched on earlier, was there something else that acted as the catalyst? Reporter Jim Gray seems to think so and he's strong in his conviction.
"The Pistons were the problem. It was the Pistons who initiated this, the Pistons fans and Wallace were the guys who were the aggressors here." Is that how the rest of the world sees it? Probably not, but everyone has their own opinion.
Darvin Ham Thinks The Media Got It Wrong
We all know how the media has the ability to misconstrue events, quotes, and whatever else they get their hands on. Darvin Ham, who played for the Pistons at the time thinks the media for sure had this one messed up.
"I think [the media] twisted it," Ham said. "Out-of-control NBA players were at the forefront of the story as opposed to fan behavior." He thinks they focused on the "wild black guys playing in the NBA" narrative instead of shedding light on the crazy fans.
It Felt Good
If you think the days of people not using racial slurs have subsided, then you're in for a rude awakening. Professional athletes in America still fall victim to the sharp tongue of the fans in every city. Stephen Jackson received a lot of that in his playing days.
"Well let me say this. All the racial slurs, all the things I've heard, all the things I’ve heard about my mom and my basketball game and my kids, and all this, it felt good to punch a fan one time," Jackson told ESPN.
World Peace Thinks THIS About The Suspension
With Metta World Peace acting as the central figure of this brawl, you would expect that he would receive the toughest punishment. You don't go into the stands and start swinging; imagine if Jackie Robinson had done that after the things he went through.
World Peace opened up about the suspension and said it was tough. "The suspension was harsh," he said. "I don't know what’s happening at the front office behind closed doors. You can justify because I was getting in trouble already."
World Peace Was Also Frustrated With The Referees
Much like with Mike Brown, Metta World Peace didn't appreciate how the refs handled things. World Peace was all over the place well before the main event took place. Nothing happened. World Peace just wants to know why.
"I was on the table for five minutes… what happened to the whistle, tech, and hand point to the locker room? There were a lot of frustrating moments at that time where I felt I took the bulk of it and I'm fine with that."