On November 14, 2004, more than 22,000 people were in attendance of one of the most gruesome scenes the NBA has ever seen.
Everyone knows what happened, but what nobody knows is what might have happened if Ron was actually able to keep his cool. What if the chubby white guy decided not to throw his cup? What if Ron didn’t foul Ben Wallace with less than a minute to go? How might have the Indiana Pacers season gone had “The Brawl” not taken place?
The repercussions of that night led to nine players being suspended without pay for a total of 146 games, which led to $10 million in salary being lost by the players. Five players were also charged with assault, and all five were eventually sentenced to a year on probation and community service.
The Pacers’ were hit hard with the aftermath of this event. Ron Artest was suspended for the rest of the season (73 regular season games) while Stephen Jackson was suspended for 30 regular season games for his role in the brawl. Jermaine O’Neal was also given a 25 game suspension, which was later reduced to 15 games.
All of the other suspensions were just for one game or five at the most.
The Pacers had their sights set on the playoffs, as they aimed to make one or two more runs before their window closed. Reggie Miller was in his 17th season, and they knew the time was now. With the loss of Artest for the entire season including the playoffs, and Jackson and O’Neal missing significant time, the Pacers managed to get the sixth seed in the 2005 Playoffs.
The Pacers managed to upset the third-seed Boston Celtics in the first-round, when they moved on to face the Detroit Pistons of course. The Pacers were able to take it to six games but eventually lost the series, 4-2. The season was over, the window essentially closed.
Nobody can really say what would have happened had the brawl not taken place on that dark November night, but things would have been much different for the Pacers. They had a team capable of making a run back to the NBA Finals. Anytime you lose Artest, Jackson and O’Neal for that amount of time, it really makes things tough.
Who knows if the Pacers would have made it to the Finals that year. The Spurs ended up defeating the Pistons in Game Seven of the Finals that year, in one of the most boring-style basketball series of the past decade. While the Spurs were able to win some convincing games, they were hardly a dominating team. They were definitely beatable, as was most every other team in the playoffs.
The Pacers were able to get a taste of what the NBA Finals were like in 2000, where they faced a familiar face in head coach Phil Jackson. The Pacers essentially faced Jackson every year when he was with the Bulls. The Bulls and Pacers would almost always meet in the playoffs, providing exciting and intense games. Sadly, that would be the last time the Pacers would have that kind of success, for the immediate future anyway.
What could have been a dream season for Reggie Miller and all Pacers fans alike, ended in the most abrupt way, less than a month into the regular season. If only Ron were able to keep his head on straight (that goes for Mr. Jackson and Mr. O’Neal as well) things could have been different.
After bouncing around with a few teams, Ron Artest found himself with the Lakers, winning a championship last season with Kobe and Co. He has decided to auction off his ring for charity. How sweet of you Ron. While you are in the giving mood, how about you do something to give back to the franchise that you destroyed?
Jermaine O’Neal also jumped on the caboose of the Boston bandwagon for this season. Some guys believe getting a ring any way you can get it is better than showing loyalty to a city and a franchise that gave them an amazing opportunity.
That night has set this franchise back even until today. The Pacers might still be in rebuilding mode, but they appear to have some nice assets with this current team. The future looks bright with young stars Darren Collison and Roy Hibbert at Danny Granger’s side. They are all talented, and needless to say, we don’t have to worry about any of them going into the stands.