Tyrese Haliburton makes appearance on WWE SmackDown to confront Jalen Brunson

Pacers superstar Tyrese Haliburton made a surprise appearance on WWE SmackDown to confront Knicks star and former playoff opponent Jalen Brunson in Madison Square Garden.
SmackDown / WWE/GettyImages

It is widely known that Tyrese Haliburton is a wrestling superfan. One look at his Twitter account and a few conversations with the guy will tell you that he has been watching wrestling for mostly his entire life and talks about it whenever he gets the chance. Haliburton has even been featured on WWE TV a few times, most notably being featured on WWE Raw in Indianapolis last Monday, where he enjoyed some TV time and a custom T-shirt available for purchase on WWE Shop.

For fans of wrestling and the Pacers, the Friday, June 28th episode of SmackDown was a dream come true. The show emanated from Madison Square Garden, the site of Indiana's Game Seven beatdown of the New York Knicks to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Similar to Monday's Haliburton appearance, New York's Jalen Brunson was featured on SmackDown with his own custom shirt and the support from his home fans.

The match following Brunson's appearance was a triple threat for a spot in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match next weekend, with the participants being LA Knight, Santos Escobar, and Logan Paul (yes, Logan Paul wrestles). With Knight being the fan favorite, and Paul being the villain to the crowd, he decided to antagonize the Knicks fans by bringing out Tyrese Haliburton to the ring with him, which was met with a chorus of boos from angry fans across the arena, all of whom still had Game 7 fresh in their minds.

As Haliburton made his way to the ring, he locked eyes with Brunson. The crowd roared as the two had a stare-down, with Haliburton brushing Brunson off at first, much like he did in Game 7.

The match itself was quite intense, with Fox having to mute the audio multiple times due to the MSG crowd hurling expletives at Haliburton and the Pacers. As the match progressed, Paul called upon Haliburton to deliver him his signature weapon, brass knuckles. Seeing this, however, Brunson jumped the barricade and the two almost came to blows, only being stopped by referees.

Unfortunately for Haliburton, this distraction was too much for Logan Paul to overcome, as he was pinned by LA Knight to advance to the Money in the Bank. Following the match, things really got interesting. Paul attacked Knight and called Haliburton into the ring, who was still wearing the brass knuckles.

Seeing this, Brunson grabbed a steel chair and joined the three in the ring, as the two heroes of MSG squared off with the two villains in a scene many would compare to Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone's appearances in World Championship Wrestling in the late 1990s.

In the end, Haliburton and Paul left the ring, leaving Brunson and LA Knight standing to collect the applause from the MSG faithful, as Haliburton shouted "I'll be back" while leaving the arena. This was a nice way of giving the New York crowd one last chance to cheer their franchise player while his mortal on-court enemy walked away with the villain of the match.

Of course, it goes without saying that this was all scripted. Brunson and Haliburton are both wrestling fans, and they were having the time of their lives acting out their childhood fantasies. There was little to no chance they would actually get physical, as that would be a headache for their teams, as well as Adam Silver, but it was still a fantastic moment that perfectly encapsulates the bond between wrestling and basketball.

A lot of current NBA stars, especially the younger generation, grew up as wrestling fans, and some of them, like Haliburton, still keep up with it and have enough pull to get certain segments done their way.

Just last week, WWE announced a project to host its three biggest shows of the year, the Royal Rumble, SummerSlam, and WrestleMania, in Indiana down the line, with the Rumble already being set in Indiana on February 1, 2025. There is a good chance we can see Haliburton make an appearance there and an even bigger chance that we will see him get involved in a future WrestleMania.

A full-on match is most likely out of the question, but another moment like the one he had with Brunson can easily be seen, with Haliburton most likely being on the winning side this time due to the Indiana crowd cheering him on.

This is not the first time that wrestling and basketball have crossed paths. As mentioned before, WCW did a story with Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman joining the New World Order that even culminated in a tag team match involving the two. It is unlikely we see Haliburton wrestling a match anytime soon, due to injury concerns, but if any NBA player were to step into the ring and give wrestling a shot, it would probably be him.


For now, Knicks and Pacers fans can all come together and laugh at the events that took place on Friday while they wait for their teams to go to war during the regular season. Great friends off the court, it was easy to tell how much fun Haliburton and Brunson were having, with Brunson even saying he lived out his childhood dream and quelled Knicks fans' worries about his hand still being injured.