Netflix’s Untold: Malice at the Palace documentary aims to give viewers a full glimpse into the events that took place during the infamous 2004 brawl. Indiana Pacers teammates Metta Sandiford-Artest, Jermaine O’Neal, and Stephen Jackson were in the center of the mayhem.
In an interview on the All the Smoke podcast, O’Neal spoke with co-hosts Jackson and Matt Barnes about the brawl and the dominoes that would fall in the months and years to follow.
The ‘Malice at the Palace’ is one of the most infamous brawls in sports history
On Nov. 19, 2004, the Pacers and the Detroit Pistons met in a matchup between two Eastern Conference foes. Following a hard foul by Artest, Pistons center Ben Wallace forcefully pushed the Indiana forward. From there, chaos ensued.
As Artest laid by the scorer’s table, a fan launched a beer that landed on the Pacer. He bolted into the stands to confront the person he thought threw the beer. Jackson soon followed, along with a host of other players. NBA players and fans were fighting in the stands, something the NBA was never prepared to deal with.
The coverage of the brawl extended beyond the daily sports reporting. It was covered by many national news outlets as well. The events that took place have had a lasting impact on the players, the fans, and the NBA.
Stephen Jackson says Metta Sandiford-Artest did not take the proceeding seriously
O’Neal, Sandiford-Artest, and Jackson were each penalized by the NBA for their roles in the brawl. O’Neal and Jackson were suspended for 25 and 30 games, respectively. Sandiford-Artest, formerly known as Ron Artest and Metta World Peace, was suspended for the remainder of the season.
An arbitration hearing took place for the athletes to tell their side of the story in hopes of getting their suspensions reduced. In the podcast, O’Neal said the judge stated he had the right to do what he did. As a result, his suspension was reduced to 15 games. Jackson and Sandiford-Artest did not have the same fortune.
Ron slides a letter over to me mid-arbitration and everybody sees him do it. Everybody’s like ‘pay attention’ and I don’t even want to take it because everybody is looking at us now. And the letter said ‘Did you really hit the guy?’ When he slid it over, it was loud and everybody looked.Stephen Jackson
Jackson believes the note was the primary reason their suspensions were not reduced. The former NBA champion stated he was defending his teammate in the brawl and did what was necessary to protect him. However, the judge still did not rule in their favor.
According to Jackson, Sandiford-Artest did not come dressed properly and was talking throughout the hearing. “He did not take it seriously at all,” according to the show’s co-host.
This would ultimately have a damaging effect on the team for the remainder of the season.
The fallout from the brawl cost the Pacers a shot at an NBA Championship
We had the best record the year before and got beat in the Conference Finals. We traded for Jack. We got to camp. Everybody was in town early. We were like, ‘Oh we about to win this. We about to whoop up on everybody.’ When that happened, you knew right away, after that day it was done.Jermaine O’Neal
At the time of the brawl, the Pacers were one of the most complete teams in the NBA. They were coming off an Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Pistons. Under head coach Rick Carlisle, they were still title contenders.
Indiana was loaded, led by Reggie Miller, O’Neal, Sandiford-Artest, Jackson, and Jamaal Tinsley. The team still made the playoffs after finishing the regular season with a 44-38 record. However, it was bounced in the second round by the rival Pistons.
“We were the best team in the league when that happened,” Jackson emphatically claimed. O’Neal agreed. It appeared to be championship or bust for the Pacers this time around, but the Malice at the Palace changed everything for them.
Beyond the event itself, the players were vilified by the media, NBA culture was attacked, and the league was pressured to make an example. There were chemistry issues and the loss of Sandiford-Artest, who was one of the game’s best perimeter defenders, was felt.
Not winning a championship will forever be etched in their memory, along with the brawl that the world will never let them forget.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference