By: Scott RossPublished: November 19, 2022

Metta Sandiford-Artest

On November 19, 2004, the Indiana Pacers headed to Auburn Hills, Michigan, to play the defending champion Detroit Pistons, who had bounced them from the playoffs the previous season, after the Pacers had won a franchise-record 61 games. The Pacers were 6-2 and sitting atop the Eastern Conference, the Pistons were just 4-3, good enough for fifth place in the East.

Indy jumped out to an early on the back of Ron Artest's 17 first-quarter points, and by the half they were up 59-43. The Pistons kept cutting into the lead, but couldn't quite catch the the Pacers and with 45.9 seconds led by a score of 97-82. It was all over but the cryin'.

But then Pistons center Ben Wallace got the ball and started to back down his defender, Stephen Jackson, before doing a nifty spin move around him for an easy lay-in. But as Wallace went up, Artest came over to help, going over Wallace's back and fouling him pretty hard. Not, like, crazy hard, but way harder than you should be fouling a dude who's down 15 with 45.9 seconds to play.

Wallace was having none of it, stepping to Artest and shoving him hard in the chest. The ref, Tommy Nunez Jr, immediately stepped in and moved Artest away, but Wallace was in pursuit. For a moment it looked like your typical bullshit NBA non-fight, a lot of huffing and finger-pointing amounting to nothing.

Artest originally seemed content to let the whole thing blow over, going as as far as reclining on the scorer's table, but Wallace wasn't done. Artest eventually got up, at which point Wallace through a towel at him, but Artest laid back down. Then a young man named John Green did what one would've hoped was the dumbest thing in his life*: he threw a beverage at Artest, hitting him in the chest.

It was one thing to stand down in the face of 6-9, 240-pound Ben Wallace, but there was no way Artest was taking any shit of some suburbanite assclown. He flew into a rage, running into the stands and throwing haymakers, with Stephen Jackson in tow. Tragically, Artest trampled Pacers radio broadcaster Mark Boyle, breaking five of his vertebrae. What followed was pure mayhem, a brawl forever to be known as The Malice in the Palace.

Artest managed to wade out of the scrum after about a minute, only to be accosted by two Pistons fans, one of whom he dropped with a quick punch. Artest was eventually walked up the tunnel with a coach or two dropped over him as gallons of beer rained down from the stands. It goes without saying that the game was called, with Indy declared the victors.

Artest would be suspended for 86 games (73 regular season, 13 playoff) and lose about $5 million in salary. He played for four more teams over the next decade, managing to win a title with the 2010 Lakers. In 2011, he changed his name to Metta World Peace, briefly played along with rumors that he'd changed his name to “Panda Friend” while playing in the Chinese Basketball Association, and in 2020 changed it again to Metta Sandiford-Artest to incorporate his wife's last name, Maya Sandiford.

In addition to a magnificent oral history compiled by Jonathan Abrams for Grantland, the brawl also inspired a Netflix docu-series, if you really wanna do a deep dive into the worst four and a half minutes in NBA history.


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