Sports History: Malice at the Palace

Los Angeles Lakers' Metta World Peace raises his arms during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Lakers 120-101. (AP

Do the names Michael Ryan or John Green mean anything to any sports fans anywhere? When typed into Google, the most famous Michael Ryan is an Australian Rugby player, while the most famous John Green is the author of books such as “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Paper Towns.” However, these are not the people I am referring to.

The reason these two names should be known is because of their involvement in the famous NBA Malice at the Palace incident, which is also known to many as the Pacers-Pistons Brawl. On Nov. 19, 2004, a fight broke out on the basketball court between several players with less than a minute left to play.

After the fight was broken up and players were restrained, a fan threw a drink from the stands at former Pacers player Metta World Peace, who was then known as Ron Artest. Artest was lying on the scorer's table when a Diet Coke thrown from the stands then hit him. In response, Artest entered the crowd and sparked a massive brawl between players and fans that stretched onto the court.

Artest ran furiously into the stands looking for Ryan, who he believed threw the cup. However, it was actually Green, who is also known as the man in the blue shirt to the left of Ryan. Following Artest into the stands was teammate Stephen Jackson who punched a fan, William Paulson, in the face in retaliation for the man throwing another drink at Artest. Joining those two into the stands were Pacers players Eddie Gill, David Harrison, Reggie Miller, Fred Jones, Jamaal Tinsley, the Pistons' Rasheed Wallace and numerous members of both teams.

After Artest left the stands and returned to the court, he was confronted by two more fans, Alvin Shackleford and Charlie Haddad, and punched Shackleford in the face.  Haddad would later stand up only to then be punched in the jaw by Jermaine O'Neal after a running start.

In response to the most infamous brawl in NBA history, the NBA announced that nine players would be suspended for a total of what eventually became 146 games. Artest was suspended for the rest of the season and fined approximately five million dollars. His teammates, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal, were suspended for 30 and 15 games respectively, while Jackson was fined 1.7 million dollars and O’Neal 4.1 million dollars.

Ultimately, five players were charged with assault, and eventually sentenced to a year of probation and community service, while five fans faced criminal charges and were banned from attending Pistons home games for life. Oddly enough, after changing his name to Metta World Peace, Peace is now seen as a respectable NBA player who is beloved for his antics by fans.


Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering UConn volleyball. He can be reached via email at matthew.kren@uconn.edu.