The Malice at the Palace
Jonathan Abrams [ARCHIVE]
March 20, 2012
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Ben. There was a foul at one end, another foul, and then a borderline foul and problems beyond the foul. The game was out of hand. I was hoping the officials were going to kick both players out.

Mark Boyle (radio play-by-play, Pacers): There was no reason for those guys to be out there. I was surprised. It was an intense game — a bitter rivalry. But that game had been decided.

Larry Brown (head coach, Pistons): I don't think the game was so far out of hand that you're going to embarrass a player by putting him in for 45 seconds.

Montieth: Reggie Miller did not play. Anthony Johnson did not play. Scot Pollard did not play. Those guys were all in street clothes. Give Carlisle a pass — they had a short bench that night.

Jackson: 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. 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. I'm like, "What the hell is going on?" I had no clue that was about to happen. When that happened, everything just happened so fast, man.

Boyle: Ronnie fouled Ben under the basket and then Ben shoved Ronnie and then Ronnie backed away and the thing kind of drifted over to the press table.

Ben Wallace (forward/center, Pistons): He told me he was going to hit me, and he did it. That was just one of those things. It happened in the heat of the battle.

Larry Brown: Everybody in our league takes hard fouls. There's a time and place for them. Maybe you put a guy on the line and don't let him shoot a layup late in the game to make him earn it from the free throw line. But when the game's over, I don't think many guys in our league are going out trying to hurt somebody. That was kind of unusual and I think that's maybe why Ben reacted the way he did.

The Scorer's Table

Multiple players from both teams kept pulling an enraged Wallace away from Artest, who eventually (and inexplicably) decided to lie on the scorer's table as everything settled down. The slowness of the response — Wallace looming, teammates shoving, and referees debating — allowed the incident to escalate.

Donnie Walsh (CEO and president, Pacers): Ronnie did try to get away from it because he had been told, "If you see yourself getting too excited, disengage and get yourself out of it and get your thoughts together." That's why he went down and laid down on the table. It was so he wouldn't get all excited and do something wrong.

Tom Wilson (CEO of the Detroit Pistons and Palace Sports and Entertainment): When he laid on the scorer's table, it took the natural barriers away. There's nothing between you and the crowd. Normally, there's the player's bench. Or you'd have to climb over chairs or climb over the scoring table — it requires that instant that keeps you from doing something crazy or gives people a chance to grab you.

Montieth: In a way, he provoked it passively by lying down on that table. He picked up a set of radio headphones like he was going to talk to people back home. He was clowning around a bit too much. In his mind, he was saying, "Look, I'm not doing anything here. I'm trying to be good." It didn't work out that way.

Boyle: We had a headset out because we were anticipating bringing a player over for a postgame interview. We had known Ronnie for a while — there was no way we were going to put an open mic in front of Ron Artest in that situation. The mic wasn't live.

Wilson: It was almost like an "I'm so cool" thing to sort of disassociate yourself and act above everything. Which I think is how the crowd took it.

Boyle: We had maybe half a dozen assistant coaches, a bunch of guys who were there because the coach liked them or owed someone a favor. That was typical in those days, those real large coaching staffs. When Ronnie was lying on the table, one of the assistants, a young guy named Chad Forcier, is rubbing his stomach like Ron is his pet dog and I'm thinking, Why aren't these guys getting this guy out of here?

Montieth: Artest would put on the headphones and Reggie [Miller] would take them off and put them down. Reggie did a really good job of trying to keep the situation under control and stay after Artest.

Boyle: We had guys on that team that were jaw-jackers. Stephen Jackson was looking for somebody to fight. He was jacking it up. Ronnie was lying on the table. Ben's not one to back away. It was just the wrong mix of guys.

Mike Brown: Nobody was holding the Piston players back. The one guy that I did know and had a pretty good relationship with was Ben. I went over and I tried to grab him and talk to him. His nickname was Debo, so I tried to pull a nickname from the past out. I was like, "Debo, Debo, it's not worth it. Go back. Debo. Come on." He kind of slowed down and I finally got him to a point where he stopped.

Jackson: The biggest thing that upset me — after we were trying to break up Ben and Ron, a lot of [Ben's] teammates were still talking. I'm over trying to help and break it up and I'm standing next to Rick Carlisle and I see Rip Hamilton and Lindsey Hunter, I hear them talking and I'm thinking, OK. They ain't trying to break it up. They're still talking. Let me try and go see what they want to do.

Hunter: I was trying to stop Rip because Rip was like 140 pounds and that's my guy, my little brother. Like, "Rip, sit down. Get out the way before you get hurt out here." And Derrick Coleman is like, "Come on, let's get these guys out [of here]." So I walk out there and that's when Stephen walked up and started saying stuff. And, listen, I box. I'm too old to be fighting or whatever, and I'm like, "I'm not fitting to fight out here in front of all these people." But I've been boxing for nine, 10 years, so it wasn't a big deal to me.

Jackson: I was in fight mode at the time. I'm like, "Y'all being real disrespectful, man. We're trying to break this up. So if y'all wanna fight, I'll give you what you're looking for." It was just a whole bunch of noise, just trash talk.

Hunter: In a situation like that, you want to protect your teammates and yourself. I'm looking to make sure nobody's going to hit anybody from behind. I just remember kind of smirking, like, "Jacko, you know you don't want to fight in front of all these people." And we kind of squared off and looked at each other and it didn't escalate into anything. People don't know that Rip is a fierce competitor and Rip just goes over the top, man. He was real emotional.

Jackson: Me and Rip are close buddies, real good friends. But at the time, the emotions were so high. They were upset 'cuz they were getting dragged. We were beating them by [15 points]. They were real upset, so they were...
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