By Jemele Hill
Page 2

Don't blame The Game.

It ain't Master P's fault.

Throwbacks weren't the cause of this throw down.

Two things you could count on happening in the aftermath of the Knicks-Nuggets fight: (1) Overusage of the word "thug," which belongs right next to "race card" in the Phrases That Should Be Eliminated Hall of Fame; (2) Somehow this will all be blamed on hip-hop culture -- the convenient scapegoat for everything wrong with the NBA. Forget blaming this on a petty feud between George Karl and Isiah Thomas. Let's just point the finger at Ludacris.

Seriously folks, can we not make the same mistake with "Melee at Madison Square" that we did after the "Malice at the Palace"? Can we not smash the overreact button and realize Saturday's multiplayer brawl was just a regular ol' jock fight?

The Brawl
Kurt Snibbe

The punishments given by NBA commissioner David Stern on Monday were frighteningly predictable. To be fair, Stern was in a tough spot. Were it not for the Palace fiasco, this latest ordeal would merely have been a rehash of previous NBA feuds that, quite honestly, helped make the 1980s a fantastic NBA era to watch.

Newsflash: competitive athletes fight sometimes. They also are egomaniacs. And they get especially pissed when they feel their opponent is running up the score. But hey, if you belonged to an organization that is as mismanaged and woeful as the Knicks, fighting in an otherwise meaningless NBA game would be a worthwhile sacrifice if it meant shortening the number of times you had to wear that uniform.

Let's be smart. Let's blame this one on false bravado, machismo and stupidity. Let's not turn this into some tired diatribe on how the NBA was destined for doom the minute Allen Iverson grew cornrows. Let's not have pointless discussions about how today's young athletes are wannabe gangsters. Asked by Salt Lake Tribune columnist Gordon Monson last week if any of his players ever got in his face, Utah coach Jerry Sloan said, "No, not up in my face. If they did, somebody would be going south. I've got too much craziness in me." And to my knowledge, no one ever has called Sloan the dreaded t-word (thug).

It is what it is. A NASCAR guy can drop-kick another driver through his car window and it is just considered part of the sport. Hockey players drop their sticks and pound on one another on a regular basis and no one dares blame it on anything other than just a boiling, competitive spirit. When NASCAR drivers blast one another with their cars out of anger it isn't symptomatic of what's wrong with white people. So please don't turn a silly NBA fight into a town hall meeting about what's wrong with African Americans -- even though, unfortunately, something like this somehow winds up reflecting poorly on the entire black community.

Of course, the fight was wrong. No one is denying that. It should never have gone as far as it did. Clearly, Carmelo Anthony must never have heard of Kermit Washington, whose life was irrevocably altered because he sucker-punched Rudy Tomjanovich. Melo could have seriously injured Mardy Collins. At worst, criminal charges should be strongly considered, and at best, Melo should be sentenced to a lifetime of snickers because Mr. Don't Snitch ran during the fight from Nate Robinson, who is a mighty 5-foot-7. Melo is now the recipient of the Disgraceful Fighting Award, an honor that in years past has belonged to Doug Christie (your wife cannot throw a meaner punch than you do), Kobe Bryant (Chris Childs gave Kobe a combination that would make Lennox Lewis jealous) and Shaq (how is a 7-footer going to allow himself to get dropped by Charles Barkley, who is 6-foot-5 on a good day?).

And by the way, a memo to pundits, experts and columnists: What happened at Madison Square Garden was a fight. Now that incident that occurred at a basketball game in Serbia a couple of weeks ago -- that was a riot.

Anyway, Stern's tactics suggests he fashions himself as Michael Corleone, but a dress code can't prevent a 10-player brawl any more than a birthing video can stop teenage sex.

Stern has gone out of his way to try to sever the league's connection to hip-hop -- except, of course, when it comes to peddling NBA apparel that costs as much as a car payment -- but trying to use this fight as an example of widespread, unchecked "thuggery" is ridiculous and irresponsible. To borrow a quote from "The Wire"'s Omar, sometimes, it's all in the game.

Jemele Hill, a Page 2 columnist and writer for ESPN the Magazine, can be reached at