As part of Netflix’s untold sports documentary series, pivotal figures recount the riot in Detroit between the Indiana Pacers and fans of the Pistons, in an event that altered basketball forever.
The incident that sparked the unforeseen events that the documentary revolved around, evolved from a simmering rivalry between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons.
Even retelling his journey years later, the hunger of Jermaine O’Neal is unequivocal as he speaks of the high expectations about joining up with the Indiana Pacers, a side that at the time was led by the legendary Reggie Miller.
However, they were part of a turbulent team, epitomised by the fiery Ron Artest, who later changed his name to Metta World Peace, who endured a combustible relationship with Jackson.
Further enhancing the fearsome nature of the Pacers at the time was the unmistakable Stephen Jackson, who admitted that he ‘smoked weed all day’, he did, however, take pride in his loyalty, underlining that he would always have stood by his teammates, whether it be in the bar or on the court.
Hellbent on revenge, the Pacers took to The Palace of Auburn Hills, as they collided with a strong Detroit Pistons, in an intensely hostile atmosphere fuelled by the bellicose backers of the hosts.
An added element to the documentary and the incident is the story of the Pistons’ Ben Wallace, who revealed much of his temperament at the time was dictated by the recent loss of his brother.
With the Pacers well on their way to victory, in a performance that really cemented their championship credentials, it was Wallace who notched a bucket and was then at the center of the clash, which commenced the chaos.
Having been on the receiving end of an overly aggressive push from Artest, Wallace fired back with a spikey shove and the clash descended into chaos.
A nonchalant Artest then responded by laying on the scorers’ table, as he revealed the nature and mentality of his team, who rallied to his defense, was all the assurance he needed that he was fine.
Nonetheless, Artest’s calmness crumbled as the Pistons fans mirrored the aggression of Wallace and a drink was hurled towards the forward, who retaliated by bolting into the crowd to go blow-to-blow with the culprit.
Inevitably, pandemonium transpired, and whilst the Pacers players ‘rode together’, violence and hostility from the Pistons fans elevated as they invaded the court in a bid to get as close to the Pacers players as possible.
The togetherness of the Pacers did crumble, however, and bitterness between O’Neal and Artest flared up in the changing room.
Furthermore, it was the battle between the media and players that grew and became the main narrative, with the media branding NBA players as ‘thuggish’.
Artest, Jackson and O’Neal were whacked with significant suspensions in what became a case of major magnitude for the NBA and a huge legal case unraveled as the legal parties looked to identify the fans involved.
GamblingTV Take: If you’re an NBA fan or have an interest in US sports culture, or even love a legal story, this is simply unmissable. It’s a tale that had a monumental impact on the NBA and truly underlined how everything can change in a split second. Furthermore, for hoops fans, the story has elevated emotiveness as it marked the final campaign of the great Reggie Miller.