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NBA Power Rankings: The 20 Best On-Court Fights in League History

Andy BaileyFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 5, 2017

NBA Power Rankings: The 20 Best On-Court Fights in League History

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    The NBA Playoffs are upon us, and tensions are certain to be running high over the next few weeks.  We'll probably see a scrape or two, and maybe even a fight.

    But I doubt we'll see anything like the ruckus on this slideshow.

    During the last few decades, we've seen some pretty wild shoving matches, fights and even all-out brawls go down on NBA floors.

    Here are the 20 best...

20. Charles Oakley and Xavier McDaniel

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    NEW YORK - 1989:  Charles Oakley #34 of the New York Knicks stands on the court during an NBA game at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York in 1989.  (Photo by: Tim Defrisco/Getty Images)
    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    You wouldn't think a mean-lookin' player with the reputation of a tough guy like Charles Oakley would be involved in such a weak excuse for a fight.

    The start of this confrontation is probably embarrassing for both Oakley and Xavier McDaniel.

     

    The Fight?

19. Zach Randolph and Louis Amundson

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 9:  Zach Randolph #50 of the Los Angeles Clippers smiles during the game against the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena on February 9, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agre
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The best part of this fight is the way Amundson took this punch like a champ.  Randolph hit him with a cheap left hook across the jaw, and Amundson didn't even come close to going down.

    What makes Randolph look even worse is what he said afterward..."I just pushed him out of my face. If I would have hit him, he wouldn't have got up off the ground."

    I don't know why you would try to lie about it when it's on film.

     

    Amundson Not Phased

18. Danny Ainge and Tree Rollins

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    After Atlanta center Tree Rollins hit him with an elbow, Danny Ainge took him down.

    While they were on the ground, Rollins resorted to the timeless tactic of biting Ainge's finger.  Rollins earned a five-game suspension and the dignity that comes from knowing he fought clean.

     

    The Ruckus

17. Shaq and the Bulls

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    30 Jan 2002:  This is a close up of center Shaquille O''Neal (L) #34 of the Los Angeles Lakers and his teammate, guard Kobe Bryant (R). The picture was taken during the NBA game against the Orlando Magic at the TD Waterhouse in Orlando, Florida.  The Lake
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Shaq has been involved in a bunch of fights in his career, but I don't think he's ever come out looking like much of a fighter.

    In this one, he throws a wild haymaker at the wrong guy, and misses badly.  Plus, it looked like Brad Miller was ready to go toe-to-toe with the Diesel, and I think I'd pick the young Miller in a boxing match.

     

    Swing and a Miss

16. Larry Bird and Bill Laimbeer

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    1988:  Bill Laimbeer #40 of the Detroit Pistons looks on in a game during the 1988-1989 NBA season.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Bill Laimbeer was about as dirty as any player in league history, and it got him into plenty of fights.

    In this one, he simply pushed Larry Bird (who's no angel himself) too far, and got a ball chucked at him for his troubles.

     

    The Start of the Fight

15. Shawn Bradley Gets Body Slammed

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    20 Dec 2000:  Shawn Bradley #44 of the Dallas Mavericks walks on the court as Head Coach Don Nelson looks on during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas. The Mavericks defeated the Trail Blazers 106-101.  NOTE
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Why did everyone like to pick on Shawn Bradley so much?

    Sure, he threw a few elbows in his day, but what could he have possibly done to deserve this body slam from the 6'7", 210-pound Mark Davis?

     

    The Slam

     

    More Footage

14. Marcus Camby and Danny Ferry

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    08 Dec 2001:  Forward Marcus Camby #23 of the New York Knicks shoots the ball against the Indiana Pacers during the NBA game at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.  The Knicks defeated the Pacers 101-99. Mandatory Credit:  Al Bello/Getty Images N
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Marcus Camby was clearly unhappy about the elbow he took from Danny Ferry.

    Unfortunately, the vicious overhand right he threw didn't hit Ferry.  His coach, Jeff Van Gundy, took the punishment on this one.

     

    The Punch

13. Bonzi Wells and Chris Mills

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    PORTLAND - DECEMBER 17:  Bonzi Wells #6 of the Portland Trail Blazers shoots a jumpshot during the game against the New Orleans Hornets at Rose Garden on December 17, 2002 in Portland, Oregon.  The Trail Blazers won 102-93.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly a
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    This one lasted long after the game was done.

    Rasheed Wallace hit a game-winning shot, and a scrum between Wells and Mills ensued.

    Fans got involved by throwing beer bottles, and Wallace attempted to go after someone in the stands who threw something at him.

    Later, Mills tried to get into Portland's locker room.  When that didn't work out for him, he parked his car in front of the Blazers' team bus.

    Mills was suspended for three games and Wells was suspended for two.

12. Doug Christie and Rick Fox

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    SACRAMENTO - NOVEMBER 8:  Doug Christie #13 of the Sacramento Kings handles the ball during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Arco Arena on November 8, 2002 in Sacramento, California.  The Kings won 99-91.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Here's another melee that spilled off the court. 

    It started with Rick Fox's one-handed shove to Christie's face.  That led to a solid uppercut from Christie to Fox's jaw.

    But the most interesting part of this may have happened in the tunnel where a street clothes-wearing Shaq tried to get involved in this battle with the "Queens."

     

    The Fight

11. P.J. Brown Tosses Charlie Ward

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    14 May 1997:  Forward P.J. Brown of the Miami Heat stands on the court during a playoff game against the New York Knicks at the Miami Arena in Miami, Florida.  The Heat won the game 96-81. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons  /Allsport
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    This fight may have the single best move on the list.

    Brown was a solid enforcer for the Heat back in the '90s and, even though this fight was a huge mismatch, you don't see one basketball player completely flipping another every day.

     

    The Slam

10. Larry Bird and Julius Erving

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    Larry Legend and Dr. J are two of the greatest players of all time, and had a pretty good rivalry with each other.

    The clip from this fight sure doesn't look good for either guy.  For Bird, it can't be fun to be held by multiple players while another guy punches you.  For Erving, it's a punk move to be throwing those punches.

     

    The Fight

9. Shaq and Chuck

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    14 Nov 1997: Forward Charles Barkley of the Houston Rockets (center) goes after the ball between center Shaquille O''Neal and guard Eddie Jones of the Los Angeles Lakers during a game at the Compaq Center in Houston, Texas. The Lakers won the game 113-103
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Yet another swing and a miss by Shaq.  This time it had more to do with the other player dipping out of the way.

    It's hard to say who officially started this one, but Barkley tossing the ball at Shaq's face certainly elevated the shoving match into a fight.

     

    The Fight

8. Kings/Pacers Brawl

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    22 Dec 1995:  Forward Dale Davis of the Indiana Pacers prepares to shoot against the Dallas Mavericks during a game played at the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The Pacers won the game, 90-79. Mandatory Credit: ALLSPORT USA/Allsport
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    This fight led to an unprecedented number of suspensions coming down from the league office. 

    Sixteen players were suspended at least one game, with Dale Davis of the Pacers and Michael Smith of the Kings getting two games off.

    The suspensions were the result of a bench-clearing brawl.

7. Doc Rivers and Kevin Johnson with Outside Interference from Greg Anthony

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    13 Jun 1993: Guard Kevin Johnson of the Phoenix Suns moves the ball during a game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Suns won the game, 129-121.
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    What started as a one-on-one battle between Kevin Johnson and Doc Rivers, erupted into a bench-clearing brawl just before the close of the first half.

    The worst part about the fight was an out-of-uniform Greg Anthony joining the fun by hitting Johnson with a cheap shot to the head from behind.

     

    The First Confrontation

     

    When it Turns Into a Brawl

6. JoJo English and Derek Harper

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    13 May 1994:  Guard Derek Harper of the New York Knicks hits a Chicago Bulls player during a second round playoff game at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  The Bulls won the game, 104-102. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    NBA commissioner David Stern was sitting courtside at this game between the Bulls and Knicks.

    He got an unexpected surprise when Derek Harper and JoJo English started a bench-clearing brawl that spilled into the stands near Stern's seat.

     

    The Brawl

5. Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson

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    24 Feb 1999:  Alonzo Mourning #33 of the Miami Heat shooting a free throw during the game against the Washington Wizards at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C. The Heat defeated the Wizards 96-80.   Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger  /Allsport
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Mourning and Johnson are a couple of big dudes; Jeff Van Gundy is not.  He managed to get himself right in the middle of what could have been a very dangerous situation for him.

    He should get some credit for having the courage to try to break those guys up.

    I know all the players are totally different now, but I see this heated rivalry re-emerging soon.

     

    The Fight

4. Charles Barkley and Bill Laimbeer

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    30 Dec 1990: Forward Charles Barkley of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the CoreStates Spectrum in Inglewood, California. The Lakers won the game, 115-107.
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    My favorite part of this video is not the awesome fight between Barkley and Laimbeer (which left Laimbeer looking like a losing prize fighter). 

    It was definitely the way Isiah Thomas made a complete fool of himself.  He punched Rick Mahorn in the head for no reason and Mahorn just stood there as if Thomas was wearing Socker Boppers.

    The tension was high after that moment, and Laimbeer sent things into brawl status when he threw the ball at Barkley.

     

    Isiah Thomas Lookin' a Fool

     

    The Actual Brawl

3. Knicks/Nuggets Brawl

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    I find it relatively ironic that the guy Jared Jeffries is choking in this picture is now his teammate in New York.

    This was an all-out brawl at the end of a Denver blowout win. 

    New York's Isiah Thomas almost certainly started the mess by telling his players to get dirty (he warned 'Melo not to go into the lane at the end of the game).

    The deed was done when Mardy Collins put a mid-air hit on J.R. Smith. 

    That led to the brawl that got Smith and Nate Robinson suspended for 10 games, Collins for six games, Jeffries for four, and Jerome James and Nene for one game each.

    Carmelo Anthony got the biggest suspension (15 games) for landing a sucker punch in the middle of the melee.

     

    The Brawl

2. Kermit Washington and "The Punch"

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    The result of this one was the worst injury from any of the NBA's on-court fights.

    The Lakers' Kermit Washington blasted incoming Rudy Tomjanovich with a punch that he certainly could not have seen coming.

    The blow shattered bones in Tomjanovich's jaw and face and it took him five months to fully recover.

     

    The Punch

1. Pacers/Pistons Brawl

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    I think you all remember what went down on Nov. 19, 2004 at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit, Mich.

    I'll never forget watching hours of coverage of this unbelievable night on ESPNEWS.

    Ben Wallace started the fight that Ron Artest initially reacted to with relative maturity.  After Wallace shoved Artest in the face, he removed himself from the situation and laid on the scorer's table.

    When a fan decided to throw a beer at Indiana's ticking time bomb, all hell broke loose.  Artest charged into the stands, followed by Stephen Jackson.

    Total chaos ensued as fights between fans and players spilled onto the floor.

    Artest was suspended for 73 games, Stephen Jackson for 30, Jermaine O'Neal for 25, Ben Wallace for six (he deserved a much harsher punishment), and Anthony Johnson for five.

    Reggie Miller, Chauncey Billups, Elden Campbell and Derrick Coleman were all suspended one game apiece.

     

    Malice in the Palace

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