Today marks the 15th anniversary of the Malice at the Palace. Below is a video from the original ESPN coverage that shows the incident and ESPN talent reacting to what they just saw. It is a fascinating look back at one of the most infamous sports moments ever.
This whole thing almost didn't happen. Up 13 with a minute to go, Rick Carlisle began to empty his bench. Fred Jones came in for Austin Croshere and Eddie Gill came in for Jermaine O'Neal. Then Ben Wallace got fouled by Ron Artest with 45 seconds remaining.
Watching the video at full speed, it doesn't even look like that bad a foul by Artest. Wallace was probably frustrated by the score and the Pistons' 4-4 start. He shoved Artest and it was off, but it came so close to stopping multiple times. Players and coaches seemed to break everything up and Artest was even calm, laying on the scorer's table. So many things had to go wrong for this to happen.
Then a fan threw a cup and all hell broke loose. Artest went into the stands. Jackson followed him. Then more teammates. Security. Coaches. Announcers. Punches and drinks were thrown in every direction. Players were in the stands. A chair went flying. When they got back to the floor, fans followed. Eventually everyone was escorted back to the locker room through beer showers. Those are the parts we probably all remember, but what you might have forgotten was the immediate aftermath on ESPN.
The game was broadcast live on national television so ESPN had boots on the ground and a studio show waiting to break down what happened before anything even happened.
Host John Saudners was irate, calling Detroit fans "punks" multiple times and ending this clip by saying "they've got a few jails they can fill up tonight."
Stephen A. Smith was in studio. He listed the players who would be getting suspensions, but questioned whether they deserved them. Nine players ended up getting various suspensions because of the incident. Ron Artest would be suspended for the rest of the season. Jermaine O'Neal got 30 games and Stephen Jackson got 15.
Rick Carlisle spoke to Jim Gray and Stephen A. and told them both he felt like he was "fighting for his life" during the incident. He also said he stood behind his players. Immediately following the fracas, everyone on the broadcast sided with the players. Jim Gray, speaking from the floor of the empty Palace, sounded emotional.
Future disgraced official Tim Donaghy was involved. As was Derrick Coleman, in his final season in the NBA, who took the opportunity to stake his claim as the scariest person to ever play basketball.
There is almost too much involved in this incident to believe any of it. It was the perfect mix of personalities, bad fans and bad circumstances. It was the absolute worst of everyone. Grantland put together an oral history of the Malice at the Palace in 2012. Last year SBNation broke it down on YouTube. No matter how many times we look back, it's impossible to remember everything about this night which makes the NBA's scariest night's one of the most fun to look back on.