DETROIT (CBS Detroit) — Detroit Pistons fans — and NBA fans altogether — remember it well: The Malice at the Palace.
That wasn’t a boxing match featuring some of the world’s best heavyweights, rather an unfortunate night at the Palace of Auburn Hills that painted fans in Detroit in the worst light.
The story of that night has been told in many ways from different perspectives since the brawl between the Pistons and Indiana Pacers in November of 2004, but anecdotes continue to surface from the people involved in the incident to this day.
Stephen Jackson, who was new to the Pistons-Pacers rivalry in 2004 having played with the Atlanta Hawks the previous season, played a major role in the brawl, garnering a 30-game suspension as punishment for going into the crowd.
Now retired, Jackson spoke on The Rich Eisen Show on Friday and shed some light on what led up to the incident.
“At the end of the game, some kind of way Jamaal Tinsley and Ron Artest are having a conversation at the free throw line,” Jackson said. “I’m not knowing Ron is thinking about returning a foul to Ben [Wallace] from last year’s playoffs. If I would have known that I would have stopped him. We all know Ron wasn’t in his right mind, he didn’t need a battery in his back to do something stupid — he did that on his own.”
But, Tinsely did encouraged Artest to go get back at Wallace for something that happened in the Eastern Conference Finals back in the summer, Jackson said.
Artest fouled Wallace hard on a drive to the basket as the Pacers led by 15 with under a minute to play — something that Wallace didn’t take kindly to. But, Jackson said that something else may have had Big Ben on edge that night.
“This is what people don’t know — a couple days before that I think Ben had just lost his mom, so he wasn’t even supposed to play that game — he showed up at the game so I know that he wasn’t in his right mind,” Jackson said. “If I lose my mom I’ll probably be — no telling what I’ll be the next couple days. But [Ron Artest] fouled him and Ben didn’t expect it, next thing you know, Ben run up to Ron and push his head out to the parking lot.
“Ben pushed him so hard, I didn’t think Ron was going to be alive,” Jackson said. “As Ben pushed him, Ben just started swelling up and getting bigger and bigger and bigger.”
Artest then famously lay down on the scorer’s table before being hit in the face with a beer cup thrown by a fan a few rows up. Artest instantly hopped over the seats and began beating a fan who didn’t throw the cup, and he was followed up there by Jackson.
“I didn’t think twice, went in there and laid a couple guys out and did what I had to do,” Jackson said.
Artest was suspended for the rest of the season and Jackson lost 30 games.
“We get in the locker room and we’re sitting there — my leg’s all scratched up from hopping over the bleachers, Ron’s sitting there calming down. His first question to me: ‘do you think we’re going to get in trouble?'” Jackson said.
“You know my reply? ‘You lucky if we have a job,'” Jackson said.
Jackson said he thought his career would be over after the incident and some of the players would be kicked out of the NBA. He said he only regrets one thing from that night.
“I regret how we handled it, I don’t regret defending my teammate. I don’t regret that. I regret going in the stands and punching fans, I regret that totally,” Jackson said.