I remember the infamous 2004 Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers game like it was yesterday. I was in a small apartment in West Los Angeles and was watching the game live. The game was uneventful until an infamous beverage hit Ron Artest/Metta World Peace, and the rest became history. Once that hit, I called my dad and two friends to tell them to turn the TV on to the game ASAP. You sadly couldn’t look away at the biggest brawl in NBA history.
Cut to 17 years later, and a much more reflective Metta World Peace, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal, and Reggie Miller look back at the historic night in UNTOLD: MALICE AT THE PALACE. While the documentary-style can sometimes feel a bit forced, there’s no denying this is a riveting exploration of one of the NBA’s (and their fans) darkest times.
If you watched sports news in 2004, the NBA had an identity crisis. The NBA was a product marketed towards blue-collared white Americans with young black athletes that the media labeled “thugs,” from Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace, and of course, each player that took part in the “Malice at the Palace.” Post-2004, Commissioner David Stern changed this perception by rapidly expanding the NBA brand globally, having a strict dress code, and sending the message through player suspensions.
I’m giving MALICE AT THE PALACE 🤩, but I don’t feel like I’m the right person to comment on what it means to be incorrectly labeled a “thug.” As a white male that’s an NBA superfan, I’ve never been through the profiling that the young rising stars in the NBA have to go through.
I know that if you pamper young multi-millionaires (ex. actors and musicians) and those people do not get their way, things can go badly. But, regardless of your stature, gender, and/or race, if someone throws a beverage, a chair, or a punch at you, the instinct is to want to defend yourself.
MALICE AT THE PALACE expertly shows that security and the NBA did NOT have the players’ safety in mind. You can see this when a security guard nearly maces Reggie Miller because he didn’t know who he was. A couple of things there. One, how do you not know who Reggie Miller is if you work in NBA security? Two, why weren’t the security guards protecting the players from the fans on the court trying to punch them?
The players own some of the responsibility for what happened, and they were severely punished for the brawl. But UNTOLD asks viewers – should they be responsible for it all?
One thing is for sure, the NBA and basketball were never the same after the MALICE AT THE PALACE.
It’s available on NETFLIX.