by Nicholas Tolomeo - 11/17/2008
The NHL, the NFL, the NBA and MLB are the main draws for professional sport leagues in the U.S. and with the four different leagues you have four different definitions of violence. Fighting is completely acceptable in the NHL with fines hardly ever being imposed as referees regulate the carnage; the league advertises it and fans cheer for it. Violence in the NFL occurs during the play and only excessive violence is punished with penalties and fines while actual fighting is extremely rare. Violence in the MLB hardly ever escalates once both benches clear.
NBA Violence has become a much larger issue. The close contact the players find themselves in with basically no padding or equipment and the vicinity of the fans to the playing court make violence a serious issue in the league that can quickly escalate.
A perfect example of that is what happened Nov. 19, 2004 at the Palace at Auburn Hills -- the most notorious episode of violence in the history of the NBA. What is now known as the Malice at the Palace was a brawl between the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers that quickly turned into David Stern's worst nightmare when fans became involved after throwing objects at Pacer players. The players retaliated by entering the stands and continuing the brawl there. The Malice at the Palace brought never-before-seen suspensions in terms of length along with fines and more importantly increased scrutiny upon the league. David Stern went ahead with measures that were designed to prevent anything like that from happening in the future.
It largely has succeeded at that although over two years later another high profile fight broke out at Madison Square Garden in a game between the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets. It was the second most penalized on-court fight behind only the Pistons and Pacers brawl at the Palace.
A late foul sparked a brawl and in all 10 players were ejected from the game and seven players were suspended. The largest suspension, 15 games, went to Carmelo Anthony, who gave an open handed slap to Mardy Collins.
The fights in the NBA have gained more notoriety than any other altercation in sports and the image is something the league and Stern have continued to try to combat.
Many are surprised at the amount of violence in the game of basketball but many basketball coaches have contended that basketball is as much a contact sport as football. With the commissioner's office showing a quick trigger when it comes to suspensions and hitting the players in the wallets along with the rules in place such as an automatic suspension for a player leaving the bench area, the NBA has succeeded in preventing any future fights since the incident at Madison Square Garden.
The fighting in professional basketball was not just limited to the men. In the summer of 2008, at the same venue of the Pistons and Pacers brawl, the WNBA experienced a fight of its own in what is now known as the Malice at the Palace II.
Players from the Detroit Shock and Los Angeles Sparks got into a last second fight after a hard foul. WNBA star Candace Parker threw a punch before being tackled by Deanna Nolan. Shock coach Rick Mahorn got involved shoving Lisa Leslie and in turn he was hit by players from the Sparks. In the melee Cheryl Ford was lost with a season-ending ACL injury.
Make no mistake the NBA is not the only league battling the negative image that comes with fighting. While fighting in the NBA may not occur as often as batters charging the mound in baseball, fist fights in the NHL or scuffles on the football field, NBA violence will continue to be more publicized and have a greater overall effect on the league.