NEW YORK --Indiana's Ron Artest, Jermaine O'Neal and
Stephen Jackson, and Detroit's Ben Wallace were suspended
indefinitely by the NBA on Saturday for taking part in one of the
ugliest brawls in U.S. sports history, a fight with fans that
commissioner David Stern called "shocking, repulsive and
League officials and police were examining videotapes of Friday
night's melee and interviewing witnesses. The NBA issued a
statement saying it was reviewing rules and security procedures
"so that fans can continue to attend our games unthreatened by
events such as the ones that occurred last night."
Artest, O'Neal and Jackson -- who all threw punches at spectators
in the stands or on the court at the end of the nationally
televised Pacers-Pistons game -- were to begin serving their
suspensions Saturday night, when Indiana hosted Orlando.
Due to the suspensions, the Pacers likely will have to put injured players in uniform in order to meet the league's rule of dressing at least eight players, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports.
Indianapolis had dressed only 10 players for the pistions game, and only has seven healthy players available to face the Magic on Saturday. Reggie Miller, Jeff Foster and Anthony Johnson are on the injured list.
Wallace's suspension will start at home Sunday night against
Charlotte, the next game for the reigning NBA champion Pistons.
The exact length of the four players' bans could be announced as
early as Sunday.
"I didn't start it. I just played the game," Wallace said
Saturday before learning of his suspension. "The league is going
to do whatever they feel needs to be done, and I don't have no
problems with that."
Pacers players did not immediately comment Saturday, but team
CEO Donnie Walsh issued a statement saying, "responsibility for
Friday night's action can be shared by many."
Pistons spokesman Tom Wilson said the team plans to use
"playoff-level security" starting with Sunday's game, doubling
the number of armed police and increasing other arena security
personnel by about 25 percent.
The brawl was particularly violent, with Artest and Jackson
bolting into the stands near center court and throwing punches at
fans after debris was tossed at the players.
Later, fans who came onto the court were punched in the face by
Artest and O'Neal.
"We'll put it all together, take it to the Oakland County
prosecutor's office and have them review it and they'll decide if
there are any charges," Auburn Hills Deputy Chief Jim Mynsberge
"The whole fiasco could take weeks to decide," Oakland County
Prosecutor David Gorcyca said.
The next game between Indiana and Detroit is Dec. 25 at
Indianapolis. The rivals, who met in the Eastern Conference finals
last season, won't play each other in Auburn Hills, Mich., again
until March 25.
The melee was the talk of the league Saturday. Violence at NBA
arenas is rare, even among the few franchises -- such as Detroit --
that draw a more rough-and-tumble crowd to courtside seats than in
"I was in total shock. Unbelievable," said Mike Montgomery,
who oversees security at Staples Center in Los Angeles. "You never
expect something like that to happen. You prepare and train for an
incident like that, but you never expect it."
Wallace began the fracas by delivering a hard, two-handed shove
to Artest after Wallace was fouled on a drive to the basket with
45.9 seconds remaining. After the fight ended, the referees called
off the remainder of the game. Pacers players were pelted with
drinks, popcorn and other debris as they rushed to the locker room.
"This demonstrates why our players must not enter the stands,
whatever the provocation or poisonous behavior of people attending
the games," Stern said in his statement. "Our investigation is
ongoing, and I expect it to be completed by tomorrow evening."
The most recent example of an NBA player going into the stands
and punching a fan came in February 1995, when Vernon Maxwell of
the Houston Rockets pummeled a spectator in Portland. The league
suspended him for 10 games and fined him $20,000.
Among the harshest non-drug-related penalties in NBA history was
a one-year suspension of Latrell Sprewell -- later reduced to 68
games -- for choking Golden State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo at
Kermit Washington of the Los Angeles Lakers drew a 60-day
(26-game) suspension in 1977 for a punch that broke the jaw of the
Houston Rockets' Rudy Tomjanovich during a game, while Dennis
Rodman was suspended 11 games for kicking a courtside cameraman in
the groin and six games for head-butting a referee.
Artest was benched for two games this month for asking Pacers
coach Rick Carlisle for time off because of a busy schedule that
included promoting a rap album.
Artest was suspended twice by the NBA last season, once for
leaving the bench during a fracas at a Pacers-Celtics playoff game;
the other for elbowing Portland's Derek Anderson. During the
2002-03 season, Artest was suspended five times by the NBA and once
by the Pacers for a total of 12 games.
Artest also once grabbed a television camera and smashed it to
the ground after a loss to the Knicks two years ago.
"People are putting all the burden on Artest, and I don't think
that's fair," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "He's an easy
target because of all the things he's been through. But some fans
have gotten to a point where they think they can do or say
Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said: "Do I think the fans should
share some of the blame? Yeah. But as professionals, as NBA
players, you cannot go into the stands."
The initial skirmish wasn't all that bad, with Artest retreating
to the scorer's table and lying atop it after Wallace sent him
But when a fan tossed a cup at Artest, he stormed into the
stands, throwing punches as he climbed over seats.
"He was on top of me, pummeling me," fan Mike Ryan of
Clarkston said. "He asked me, 'Did you do it? I said, 'No, man.
Jackson joined Artest and threw punches at fans, who punched
back. At one point, a chair was tossed into the fray.
Security personnel and ushers tried to break it up. Former
Pistons player Rick Mahorn, who was seated courtside as a Detroit
radio analyst, also stepped in.
"After the initial encounter on the court, the players were
under control. As fans quickly became involved, the situation
escalated," Walsh said. "More specifically, the safety of
everyone present was compromised, and that is of great concern for
Two of the nine people treated for injuries were taken to a
hospital, police said. Detectives planned to collect and analyze
video footage, interview witnesses and examine medical records.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.