NBA / sixers
How Fights Went Down In The Old NBA
I know what you're thinking so I'm going to go ahead and lay it out now: NBA fights aren't nearly as tough or intense as hockey fights. Ok, we're cool. NBA fights are intriguing because they're rare breaks in the action of a game that mostly revolves around finesse and balance. When a true NBA fight breaks out, players go into a fight-or-flight mode, and rules are tossed aside like Kobe chucking a sweaty rag at a poor towel boy. Unfortunately, after the Malice at the Palace, NBA refs are quick to diffuse any situation before it gets too out of hand. Yea I guess that's best for the image of the league and integrity of the game...but what's more exhilarating than seeing some guy on the enemy team try and step to your own squad? Every time a fight looks like it's going down, I instinctively stand up in front of the comfort of my own TV like I'm actually a part of that action somehow. It seems like fights hit their high-water mark in the eighties, but the 70's had the toughest fights. More people were beginning to follow the league in the 80's, and more stars started to become household names. In the eighties, dudes could actually still swing at each other and possibly stay in the game afterward! In today's game, if you actually make contact with someone you're looking at a swift ejection and an almost guaranteed suspension. NBA players in the golden years let it fly though! Sometimes they even fought with the fans! Like Cedric Maxwell fighting a Sixers fan here: I've done a little research and picked out some of the great fights from the past. A lot of them are relics from a bygone era of NBA officiating. It'd be nice if the refs of today could just loosen up the rules for a moment for someone to get a clean lick in on Draymond Green. But I digress. _______________________________________________________________________________________ Ralph Sampson vs. Jerry Sichting / Celtics vs. Rockets 1986 NBA Finals Game 5 The Houston Rockets were a remarkable young team led by two legendary big men Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson. They shocked everyone when they pulled a huge upset over Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, and now they had a date with the Boston Celtics. That '86 Celtics team is in the discussion for the greatest of all-time. They employed the likes of their Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish, but they also had the 1977-78 league MVP in Bill Walton coming off their bench! Walton got a debilitating injury after his MVP season and was never the same, but he found a niche as a sixth man for the Celtics. In this clip, 7'4 Ralph Sampson throws a hard, unimpeded right to the head of 6'1 Jerry Sichting! That long arm of Sampson is like a harpoon to the back of Sichting's head. Ralph even swung at Jerry's other teammate Dennis Johnson and made him bleed! Guys fell on the ground and the entire teams started getting involved. I have no idea how the refs ended up retaining control of that situation! Police actually ran out onto the floor! Dudes were getting into a serious scrum. They started spilling out into the zone of people who paid thousands for floor seats. Somebody in the comments section pointed out that at 2:13 the audio actually picks the ref up categorizing the whole ordeal as a "punching foul".......Yea that probably isn't how a ref would call it today. I like this fight because of that clean punch that Sampson gets in on Sichting. I also like how messy it is and how many people get involved. It's as close to a benches-clearing brawl as you'll find. I just know if I was dealing with the heightened emotions of my team in the NBA Finals, and that punch was thrown, I'd be so amped I'd turn into a bloodthirsty spectator from an ancient Roman gladiator arena. _______________________________________________________________________________________ Kermit Washington vs. Rudy Tomjanovich / 1977 This event isn't actually much of a "fight", in the sense that there isn't much back-and-forth between the participants. It's just one of the hardest hits anyone has taken in an NBA skirmish. There's a bruhaha at midcourt between the Lakers and Rockets. Rudy T runs up to try and break up the fight, but Kermit Washington of the Lakers wasn't thinking and he turned around and hit him with the BOOM! It was an incredibly serious boom. The hit was so powerful that it shattered Rudy's face and jaw, and I'm not joking when I say it almost killed him. Rudy incurred life-threatening injuries to his face, and after that hit, he never had a meaningful playing career. The damage was so bad because Rudy was running into the action, not knowing that Kermit would hit him with a battering ram directly to the face.The hit was like a scarlet letter on Kermit Washington's career too. He ended up being suspended 26 games and received piles of racially charged hate-mail. He and his family were ostracized from their local communities too because of this split-second decision in the heat of the moment. Kermit's wife, who was 8 months pregnant, couldn't get treatment from her obstetrician anymore because of Washington's role in the fight. It was an incident that had widespread implications in pop culture throughout the 70's. Saturday Night Live did a re-enactment of it(viewed by an estimate of 30-35 million people). The New York Times did an editorial on the fight, and Walter Cronkite of CBS News investigated the matter. All of this negative coverage further purported the lingering stereotype that the NBA was a league full of thugs that just would never succeed. The 70's actually seemed rougher than the 80's because the league was still trying to figure itself out post-Bill Russell/Wilt Chamberlain, and it became an aggro Wild West in the process. The punch caused the NBA to take a serious look at fights. They finally enacted the rule where players were to be suspended if they threw a punch, regardless of whether it hit or not. They even added a third referee to each game after this. _______________________________________________________________________________________ Sixers vs. TrailBlazers NBA Finals Game 2 1977 Hahahaha! Oh man, I love this one! This took place in the NBA Finals. First of all, Darryl Dawkins of the Sixers gets this amazing MMA takedown in on this guy called Bob Gross. He grabs him by the neck and swings him all the way down to the floor! That first exchange starts the fight. Refs and teammates follow suit and try to diffuse the situation, but Dawkins tries to get in this run-away punch in on Bob Gross again. Darryl is pushed around a bit but then Maurice Lucas of the Trailblazers smacks Dawkins in the back of the head to enter the fray! They exchange glances for a brief moment, and they make the decision to PUT THEIR DUKES UP LIKE MEN. You'd never see players of today put 'em up like that! They do a little shimmy but no real strikes are thrown. Then the fight proceeds to become a shitstorm! Fans and coaches start running on the court! Jack Ramsey, the coach of the Trailblazers, starts getting pushed by Dawkins. A fan makes his way onto the court and security officials make a priority of taking that guy out. I love how the commentator states, "THEY'VE GOT TO TAKE THAT FAN OFF THE FLOOR! THAT'S THE FIRST THING THEY GOTTA DO!"...such cutting analysis! _______________________________________________________________________________________ Knicks vs. Heat 1997 NBA Playoffs / Knicks vs. Heat 1998 NBA Playoffs These two are undeniable classics! PJ Brown starts things off by picking up, twisting, and tossing Charlie Ward like he was a piece of pizza dough! Players proceed to get into a good old fashioned dogpile. This one set the stage for one of the most iconic NBA Fight moments ever. 1998 NBA Playoffs ECR1 Game 4 - Heat vs Knicks The following year, the Knicks and Heat get at it again. This time, the coaches got heavily involved! This has all the legendary fight players from the 90's that you'd want in an altercation. Charles Oakley, Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson....and 5 foot 9 New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy. Van Gundy was probably the most heated out of all of them! Not only that, but he was the first guy to run into the action from the sideline right when he saw it! Van Gundy can probably walk through any rough New York neighborhood and get respect just because of that fight. It's also funny how the initial guys who started the fight missed every shot they threw. The reason this fight gets replayed on Sportscenter from time to time is because there's a moment where Van Gundy clutches onto Alonzo Mourning's tree trunk of a leg and he looks like a helpless child. You can catch a glimpse of it around the 8-minute mark. It totally deserves the replays it gets. _______________________________________________________________________________________ Dr. J, Charles Barkley, and Moses Malone vs. Larry Bird / 1984 My absolute favorite NBA fight. I think it sums up the eighties fights perfectly. If you were around to watch basketball back then this is probably what comes to your mind when you think "NBA Fight". All-timers Dr. J and Larry Bird get in a scuffle, and none other than Charles Barkley and Moses Malone are there to hold Bird in a headlock while the Doctor serves up a three-piece extra crispy with a side of mac. I think it happened because Larry was giving Dr. J some of that good trash talk and the Doc took exception. When they were running back to the other end of the floor, Doc locks himself up with Larry Legend's arm, causing Bird to almost fall flat on his face! Larry was a fighter though, and he wasn't just going to take that lying down. Hahahaha! It's the headlock that just cracks me up! Just excellent teamwork by Barkley/Malone. Didn't make it a fair fight for Larry at all. Even if Barkley didn't hold him back, I think J would've won in the fight. Nevertheless, good stuff from the 70's, 80's, and 90's. What are some of your favorite NBA fights? I didn't include Malice At The Palace because everyone knows that. Please share videos if you have some that deserve to be mentioned!
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