The physical play of professional basketball mixed with the egos of athletic superstars is often a recipe for disaster. Players will resort to using any number of tactics—illegal or not—to gain a competitive edge on the court. If you don’t believe us, just ask Dennis Rodman.
The NBA is home to some of the best fights and brawls in sports history. While some begin with a small push, others involve punches from the onset. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane by looking at the top 5 biggest fights and brawls in NBA history.
About halfway through the opening quarter of a game between the Houston Rockets and Brooklyn Nets in 2015, Kevin Garnett fouled Dwight Howard under the basket. The whistle blew and Garnett shoved Howard in the back.
After Howard returned the favor, Garnet threw the basketball at Howard’s back and proceeded to head-butt him near the jaw. Howard retaliated with a punch and an on-court scrum ensued as the benches cleared. Garnett was tossed from the game and suspended for the next one. Howard was fined $15,000.
Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley are perhaps two of the NBA’s biggest personalities. They’re also two of the worst fighters. During a game in 1999, O’Neal gave Barkley a little shove to the chest. Barkley didn’t appreciate the gesture, so he threw the ball at the back of O’Neal’s head.
Before you could blink, both men were on the court wrestling at the bottom of a pile filled with players and coaches from both teams. The fight didn’t last long but it sure was a spectacle. The two are currently co-hosts on TNT’s Inside the NBA.
During a game between the L.A. Lakers and New York Knicks in 2000, Kobe Bryant and Chris Childs gave their best Tyson-Holyfield impersonation. As Shaq was shooting a jumper from the baseline, Bryant and Childs were in each other’s face trash-talking.
In what appeared to be a soft headbutt by Childs, Bryant retaliated with a jab before Childs unleashed a few of his own punches. Players and coaches quickly got between the two as Bryant had to be physically restrained by officials. They were both ejected from the game.
Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and L.A. Lakers saw what many call one of the dirtiest fouls in the league’s history. After Kareem Abdul-Jabbar snagged a rebound, he threw an outlet pass to James Worthy down the court.
Worthy quickly tossed the ball to a streaking Kurt Rambis who elevated toward the basket for the lay-in. Except, he never arrived at the basket. Celtics’ Kevin McHale came sprinting from behind and clotheslined Ramis. The benches cleared and the shoving matches ensued. No one was ejected and the play was simply called a personal foul.
With just one minute remaining in a 2004 game between the Detroit Pistons and Indian Pacers, Ron Artest and Ben Wallace held nothing back. After a hard foul by Artest, Wallace shoved him like a rag doll before charging after him. The players on the court continued their tussle near the scorer’s table.
After players returned to their benches, a Detroit fan threw a water bottle at Artest who then rushed into the stands and started fighting. Teammate Stephen Jackson came to Artest’s aid and starting throwing punches as well. The incident would only get worse before players were escorted off the court.