Joe Lavin

November 23, 2004

When Small Forwards Attack


You have to hand it to the NBA. Many leagues have tried to become more interactive, but with the fight on Friday between the Detroit Pistons, the Indiana Pacers, and much of Greater Detroit and vicinity, the NBA has truly made their sport the most interactive. Just head on down to your local NBA arena, and you too can become part of the action.

NBA brawls, they're fan-tastic! The only thing that could have made this any more exciting is if it had happened at a Lakers game. Then, we could have watched Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson go after Jack Nicholson, Dyan Cannon, and Paris Hilton. Take that, reality television.

ESPN has practically created a whole another channel devoted to showing only replays of the fight, but here's the Cliff Notes version of what happened if you're one of the few who haven't seen it. Indiana Pacer Ron Artest got into a fight with Detroit Pistons forward Ben Wallace at the end of their game on Friday. As the fight escalated, fans began to throw stuff onto the court. Artest egged them on by lying down on the scorer's table. And then when he was hit in the head with a cup, he took off into the crowd, followed by teammate Stephen Jackson. Mayhem then ensued, as fans ran onto the court to deck players and players ran into the stands to deck fans. In short, it was all terribly uncivilized.

This is perhaps the worst incident of its kind, but it's hardly the first. In the last few years, there have been several times when players and fans have scuffled, and the NBA certainly isn't alone. Earlier this year, Frank Francisco of the Texas Rangers threw a chair into the crowd and broke a woman's nose. Two years ago, a father and son ran onto the field and tackled a Kansas City Royals coach for no apparent reason. And then there was the malicious attack last year on an innocent Red Sox groundskeeper by evil New York Yankee players, not that I'm biased.

NBA Commissioner David Stern responded to all this by head butting Ron Artest and slamming him into the ground. Wait, no, that's only what he dreams of doing. Instead, he suspended the Pacers forward for the remainder of the season and suspended Jackson and teammate Jermaine O'Neal for 30 and 25 games respectively.

Artest's suspension of 72 games -- and the $5 million loss in salary that goes with it -- is the biggest in NBA history. Some have questioned whether the reaction was too extreme, but Stern had to do something. Sure, many fans were jerks too, but when six-foot-seven, 246-pound athletes start attacking fans, it really becomes a public safety issue. Does anyone out there really want to sit in the front row now? After this, I'm never going to complain about sitting in the nose-bleed seats again, although come to think of it this has given that term a whole new meaning.

Meanwhile, let's review Ron Artest's distinguished season so far. First, he complained that he was tired from recording a rap album over the summer and needed a couple of months off to rest. When his coach responded to this by suspending him for two game for "compromising the integrity" of the team, Artest replied, "I don't know what that means. I don't have a dictionary. I've been meaning to ask someone. What's integrity?"

I think he was being sarcastic, though who can tell? Luckily for Artest, he can now rest for as long as he wants, and he might even have time to consult the dictionary about other words such as "assault," battery," and "lawsuit." Even if no criminal charges are filed, there will be plenty of lawsuits for him to deal with.

At any rate, I can't wait until the NHL lockout ends, so that we can finally watch a peaceful and serene sport without all the nasty fighting of the NBA.


©2004 Joe Lavin

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