The Malice at the Palace is the infamous brawl that took place at the Palace of Auburn Hills in 2004 between players from the Indiana Pacers, players from the Detroit Pistons and Pistons fans. Netflix made a documentary about the melee by the same name. I enjoyed the film. I think NBA fans and students of human psychology will like it. Malice at the Palace is fairly short. It gets to the point and doesn’t waste time so it’s not a big investment if you don’t care for it.
I remember the night of the Malice at the Palace otherwise known as the Basketbrawl but I still learned some new things. The film about the history making fight has interviews from the players, fans and police involved in the incident. It was pretty interesting hearing the perspective of fans, some of whom were arrested and one left the Palace on a stretcher and law enforcement.
My impression of the Basketbrawl is that everyone over thought it and got too emotional about the incident. The only difference between the Malice at the Palace and other sports fights is the fan involvement. It’s not rare for baseball to have a bench clearing brawl after a pitcher intentionally hits a batter with a ball. Hockey is notorious for fights. I think we’ve all heard the joke that they watched a fight on TV and a hockey game broke out. Pro sports is pretty much a celebration of toxic masculinity anyway and I thought that’s why we all watched.
There was a lot of media focus surrounding The Malice at the Palace. The media talked about if for weeks and the players were vilified and labeled as thugs. The NBA is made up of mostly Black players. In the early 2000s many of them were tattooed with braided hair. The public thought of them as thugs anyway so the Basketbrawl fit the narrative that already existed in the minds of many.
The fight happened at the beginning of the season. Key players were suspended for nearly half the season. The Pacers players that were interviewed thought the punishment was too harsh. I agree. The movie pointed out that the Pacers had a great team that year and had a great chance to go to the NBA Finals and winning.
The Pacers players lament a missed once in a lifetime opportunity. We’ll never know if the Pacers would have made it to the ’05 Finals and become NBA Champions. At the end of the season the championship hopeful Pacers team was disbanded. Ron Artest went to the Lakers and Reggie Miller retired.
It has long been my observation that the NBA favors large market teams and cheats smaller market ones. I’ve noticed bad officiating in The Playoffs over the years in favor of teams with larger markets and bankable stars. The 2004 NBA Finals Champions were the Detroit Pistons who essentially were a bunch of midwestern unknowns that beat the LA Lakers during Lakers era. I suspect that the commissioner at the time, David Stern didn’t want a different group of midwestern, small market players having a Cinderella season. That is my theory for the harsh punishments for the fight aside from publicly flogging Black men for American audiences.
Check out The Malice at the Palace if you’re an NBA fan, someone who enjoys drama or if you’re nostalgic about the early 2000s. I think you’ll enjoy it. If you don’t at least it’s short and fast paced.