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Malice at the Palace, a decade later

11/19/2014
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Malice At The Palace, Decade Later

Former Piston Chauncey Billups recalls the infamous brawl between players and fans that took place during a Pistons-Pacers game in 2004 at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Stephen Jackson: [Toward] the end of the game, I recall somebody on the team told Ron, 'You can get one now.' I heard it. I think somebody was shooting a free throw. Somebody said to Ron, 'You can get one now,' meaning you can lay a foul on somebody who he had beef with in the game.

Ben Wallace: He told me he was going to hit me, and he did it.

Stephen 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.

-- From "Malice at the Palace," by Grantland's Jonathan Abrams

"Those who cannot remember the past," philosopher George Santayana once said, "are condemned to repeat it."

Today's the day the NBA can say it has managed an entire decade without repeating anything like the Malice at the Palace, and there's a growing sense it will never happen again. But it's important to remember what really did happen that night in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and it might never be told better than it was by Grantland's Jonathan Abrams two years ago.

That story makes clear how much more complex the event was than a player or two going after fans. These were two of the best teams in the league, with title aspirations. The Pacers had pulled away for an early-season defining road win, and with no game to contest, players resolved to settle some scores in garbage time, as happens from time to time. A sequence of factors -- including intentional hard fouls, Ben Wallace's family trauma, Ron Artest's vacillations between rageful and calm, the terror of being in the minority confronting a violent mob, dreadfully insufficient security, Stephen Jackson's placement of loyalty above all -- combined to create something entirely horrid, with plenty of victims, even though up close, it's tougher to find villains than you might think.