NBA Infamous Battles: A Countdown of the Top Brawls In History

Mike AikinsContributor IIDecember 21, 2010

NBA Infamous Battles: A Countdown to the Top Brawls In History

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    The NBA has long been referred to as a non-contact sport, but true NBA fans know that this is so far from the truth. It is actually the hyped-up adrenaline and competitiveness of some of the most physically-gifted specimens on this earth that have fueled some of the best brawls in NBA history.  

    Some of these same players have been known to be great friends away from the court, but when they lace up their sneakers to play basketball, they usually engage in arguably the most competitive individual contest of wills in all of sports.

    Fact is, no other sport brings out the one-on-one and winner-take-all individual match-up night-in and night-out that NBA basketball does.  Teams ultimately win championships based on winning individual matchups over their opponents. 

    This will be a compilation of some of the best brawls in NBA history and for the sake of public relations, we'll call it The Mike Aikins NBA Brawl of Fame. 

    Now, let's lay down the rules of getting inducted into The Mike Aikins NBA Brawl of Fame. 

    In order for a player or brawl to make this list, the brawl had to be broken up by the referees or someone else, the brawlers had to be fined, suspended or reprimanded by NBA League Officials, and to make it even more interesting, a little bloodshed adding color to the fisticuffs is ultimately the proverbial icing-on-the-cake.  

    Sucker punching, trash talking that didn't lead to an actual fight, and finger pointing, does not make this list (see Tyson Chandler and Kevin Garnett).  In order to make this list, there had to have been some actual fisticuffs of mega proportion and plenty of hits on YouTube.

    The World Wide Web and streaming video, courtesy of our good friends at YouTube, sort of christens each moment in time when there seemed to be no other alternative than to just duke it out. 

    So with that being said, let's take a look at some of the most memorable brawls in NBA history. 

Alonzo Mourning vs. Larry Johnson

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    26 Apr 1998: Forward Larry Johnson and guard John Starks of the New York Knicks in action against the Miami Heat during an NBA playoff game at the Miami Arena in Miami, Florida. The Knicks defeated the Heat 96-86.
    Vincent Laforet/Getty Images

    When Alonzo Mourning of the Miami Heat got into fisticuffs with Larry Johnson of the New York Knicks back in 1998 playoffs in New York, it was a real brawl that needed no hyperbole to substantiate its significance in the NBA Brawler's Hall of Fame.  

    Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning had been teammates on a Charlotte Hornets team that did not live up to expectations, and things were said by both parties about the other player after the team broke-up that did not sit well with either player, making this one of the biggest rivalries in NBA history.

    Mourning and Johnson proceeded to throw fierce haymakers at each other, and it was obvious that there was no love in the house. 

    Heavyweight contenders like Charles Oakley, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson and P.J. Brown, took matters into their own hands, and you might not ever see this much pushing, shoving and punching in a live and sanctioned professional boxing match. Testosterone was flying everywhere as players had to be separated when tempers flared although cooler heads would ultimately prevail.

    Lightweight contenders like Tim Hardaway and John Starks had to be restrained as well, as benches cleared to participate in the free-for-all, and the NBA had a field day with handing out fines and suspensions.

    People this was when real basketball was played and also when real brawls took place.  Nothing in today's era of NBA basketball can compare to this.  Players and coaches from both organizations will never forget this day when their emotions and fierce competitiveness ultimately took the best of them. 

    Making the list as one of the most memorable fights in NBA history and gaining an induction into The Mike Aikins NBA Brawl of Fame is Alonzo Mourning vs. Larry Johnson.

Ben Wallace vs. Ron Artest

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    INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 24:  Ben Wallace #3 of the Detroit Pistons goes up for a basket over Ron Artest #23 of the Indiana Pacers in Game two of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2004 NBA Playoffs at Conseco Fieldhouse on May 24, 2004 in Indianapolis, I
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    When Ben Wallace and Ron Artest got into a fight during the Pistons and Pacers game back in 2004, it has to be considered one of the most memorable brawls of all time.  Not just because Ben and Ron got into it, but because the fans ended up getting into it as well. 

    It was more than just a bad hair day for Ben Wallace as he sported the most lop-sided out-of-control afro on this face of this earth.  Ron Artest, jersey No. 91, was arguably the most-hated player in the league at the time.

    This is how it went.  Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers, after a hard foul on Ben Wallace as he drove to the basket, was startled to see Big Ben coming back at him in retaliation with an attempt to grab him by the neck.  So after ducking a barrage of haymakers from the likes of an angry one Ben Wallace, Artest ended up in the stands picking a fight with a Piston fan. 

    The fight spread throughout the Palace and became what would be known as The Infamous Malice in The Palace.  Artest kept it going after coming down from the stands to throw a couple of knock-down drag-em-out punches to an unlucky out-of-shape piston fan, who just so happened to be at the wrong place and the wrong time. 

    This became a public relations nightmare for the NBA as they handed-down the stiffest penalties ever by suspending Ron Artest for the rest of the season as well as the next full-season.  Jermaine O'Neal and Ben Wallace also suffered many lost games and much lost income as a result of one of the most horrific yet entertaining brawls of them all. 

    Making this list as one of the most memorable fights in NBA history and gaining an induction into The Mike Aikins NBA Brawl of Fame is Ben Wallace vs. Ron Artest. 

Knicks vs. Heat 1997

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    14 Nov 2000:  Larry Johnson #2# of the New York Knicks walks out on the court during the game against the Seattle SuperSonics at Key Arena in Seattle, Washington.  The SuperSonics defeated the Knicks 96-75.   NOTE TO USER: It is expressly understood that
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    This is the infamous brawl that occurred this time on Miami's home court and all started when Alonzo Mourning delivered a bone-chilling elbow to the shoulder of wily veteran Buck Williams. The spark occurred about 2:52 seconds into the nine-minute video for those of you who would like to keep score.

    Heavy hitters like Charles Oakley, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, John Starks, Tim Hardaway and P.J. Brown will forever be known as players who wouldn't back down to anyone. And this brawl is the antithesis of what good sportsmanship was made of during an era when enforcers were prominent and nobody took nothing from nobody.

    The fact of the matter is, basketball was totally different back then. This was around 1997 when bitter rivalries like this existed throughout the NBA.  Buck Williams and Alonzo Mourning were eventually ejected from the game and this game will undoubtedly go down as one of the most infamous brawls of them all.   

    Making the list as one of the most memorable fights in NBA history and gaining an induction into The Mike Aikins NBA Brawl of Fame is another bitter rivalry and infamous fight between The New York Knicks and The Miami Heat. 

Shaq vs. Charles Barkley

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    28 Feb 1999: Charles Barkley #4 of the Houston Rockets hangs from the hoop during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. The Lakers defeated the Rockets 106-90.    Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch  /Allspo
    Elsa/Getty Images

    This was a skirmish and really isn't a brawl in the broadest sense, but it still made the list because of who was involved.  Charles Barkely was a veteran playing in probably his last year as a Houston Rocket and was not going to bow-down to the shenanigans of Shaquille O'Neal. 

    The skirmish happened underneath the basket when Barkley went up for a shot and Shaq fouled him on the block attempt. Then, when out of frustration, Barkley hit Shaq in the head with the ball and Shaq hit him back turning it into a wrestling match not even typical of a scripted WWF highlight event. 

    The reason this makes this list is because of the sheer star quality, publicity that the fight got and the players that were involved in the fight.  Although the fight itself didn't get too far out of hand, it still managed to garner a lot or air play and was the biggest topic of conversation in the media when it went down. 

    Making the list as one of the most memorable fights in NBA history and gaining an induction into The Mike Aikins NBA Brawl of Fame is the wrestling match between Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal. 

Shaq vs. Brad Miller

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    CLEVELAND - APRIL 17:  Shaquille O'Neal #18 of the Cleveland Cavaliers tries to get around the defense of Brad Miller #52 of the Chicago Bulls in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on April
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    This was another one-sided ma lay that ended up being a lot of pushing and shoving more than an actual brawl, but I would like for you have take this simple hypothesis into consideration:  If Shaq had scored on the running right-handed haymaker solidly on the chops of a one Brad Miller, the end-result would have shortened Miller's career and undoubtedly would have placed Shaquille O'Neal in one of the most infamous positions of his storied career.  

    Nevertheless, by the grace of God, Brad Miller got out of the brawl alive and was allowed to continue his career, and it was obvious that Shaq did not really want to hit him when he had the chance because Miller had his back turned.  

    No doubt years and years of Hack-a-Shaq factored into the retaliation and behavior of Shaq during this fiasco.  And it wasn't a coincidence that other famous brawlers who also made this list like Charles Oakley and Ron Artest just so happened to be in the game and in the building at the time this particular brawl went down.

    If you look at the video, it was really Charles Oakley who delivered the enticing shot at Shaquille O'Neal that sent him into a violent rage that shows us the same side of Shaq that has put fear in the hearts of NBA players throughout two decades. 

    Making this list as one of the most memorable fights in NBA history and gaining an induction into The Mike Aikins NBA Brawl of Fame, is the one-on-none brawl, pitting arguably the greatest brawler of all time, Shaquille O'Neal, against an over-matched and frightened Brad Miller. 

Rick Fox vs. Doug Cristie

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    LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 26:  Doug Christie #13 of the Sacramento Kings drives during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on February 26, 2004 in Los Angeles, California.  The Kings won 103-101.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledg
    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    This fight makes the list because of the intense rivalry that the Lakers and Kings had and the punches that were thrown, although not very many, were lethal and right on point.  Rick Fox started it after Christie somewhat flopped on a play that was actually called by the referee. 

    Things bounced out of control as Fox delivered a stiff punch to the throat of Christie.  Christie retaliated with a left-handed upper-cut flush to the bottom of Fox's chin. 

    But the thing that put this short skirmish into the annals of brawl history was the second fight that transpired in the tunnel leading to the dressing rooms.  Fox and Christie, obviously out of pure disdain for one another from things unassociated with basketball and away from the basketball court, continued a fight that turned it into an official brawl.  

    People on either side of the fighters had to be proud of their fighter because quit was nowhere in the equation.  This is why this short skirmish that turned into a brawl, makes the list in the Brawl Hall of Fame, and served as an example for basketball fans to witness what happens when there's really more to it than just two players competing on the basketball court.  

    Making the list as one of the most memorable fights in NBA history and gaining an induction into The Mike Aikins NBA Brawl of Fame is the Doug Christie vs. Rick Fox fight at the Staples Center.   

Bulls vs. Wizards 2008

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    WAHINGTON - MAY 2:  Antonio Davis #34 of the Chicago Bulls rebounds against Larry Hughes #20 of the Washington Wizards in Game four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during 2005 NBA Playoffs on May 2, 2005 at the MCI Center in Washington D.C. The Wi
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Antonio Davis and Brendon Haywood got into a fight in a playoff game that enabled The Chicago Bulls and The Washington Wizards to make the list.  The problem started when Luol Deng was going in for a layup and was pushed by his own teammate when Larry Hughes pushed Kirk Hinrich into him at the end of the play. 

    Well in fighting confines, Antonio Davis is considered "old school," so it wasn't a surprise to see Brendon Haywood backpedaling to get away from the haymakers that Davis was about to introduce him to. This ended in a fight at the other end of the court where Haywood had backpedaled to a point where he couldn't go any farther. 

    Davis then threw Haywood to the floor and obviously won the wrestling match which gives this skirmish a nod for making the list.  The fact that several players were involved, and it started at one end of the court and ended at another also gives this fight a good recommendation for making the list. 

    Making this list as one of the most memorable fights in NBA history and gaining an induction into The Mike Aikins NBA Brawl of Fame is the game between the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards and the fight between Brendon Haywood and Antonio Davis. 

Suns vs. Knicks 1993

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    1988-1989:  Guard Kevin Johnson of the Phoenix Suns moves the ball during a game. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule  /Allsport Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule  /Allsport
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    This was an old school brawl between The New York Knicks and The Phoenix Suns in the first half of a regular season game in 1993.  Greg Anthony of the Knicks sucker-punched Kevin Johnson of the Suns while he was being held by others, and it was to become a brawl of epic proportions. 

    Doc Rivers and Kevin Johnson went uncharacteristically toe-to-toe as both benches cleared in another brawl that the NBA would just like to sort of forget about.  John Starks, Pat Riley, Charles Barkley, Charles Oakley, pop-up yet again in this malay as it is obvious now that they are prone to getting into these types of altercations.  

    John Starks, Doc Rivers, Anthony Mason and Greg Anthony were all ejected for the Knicks. Phoenix Suns players Kevin Johnson and Danny Ainge were also ejected from the game.

    Making this list as one of the most memorable fights in NBA history and gaining an induction into The Mike Aikins NBA Brawl of Fame is the infamous bench-clearing brawl and fight between the Phoenix Suns and the New York Knicks in 1993.

Bulls vs. Pistons 1993

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    1989-1990:  Bill Laimbeer of the Detroit Pistons looks for the ball during a game. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell  /Allsport Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell  /Allsport
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    Bill Lambier and Scott Williams got into an altercation where even Piston coach Darrell Walker threw some punches as the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bull competed in a fierce rivalry in 1993 that makes the list as one of the best brawls of all time. 

    It was a cheap-shot by the ultimate cheap-shot artist himself (Bill Lambeer) that started it all.  Michael Jordan was tackled in mid-flight as he went in for a dunk by another "Bad Boy" (Dennis Rodman), and this didn't help matters any either. 

    Isiah Thomas and John Paxon went toe-to-toe at delivering cheap shots at each other, and Detroit's coach  was ejected for yelling at the referee early in the first half.  The fact of the matter was, these teams did not like each other, and Chicago was about to start winning the Eastern Conference and taking-over where the Pistons left off in a pursuit of multiple NBA championships. 

    This was the probably the most competitive era in NBA basketball history, and it was also at a time when true NBA enforcers like Rick Mahorn, Charles Oakley, Xavier McDaniel and many others roamed the league. 

    Making this list as one of the most memorable fights in NBA history and gaining an induction into The Mike Aikins NBA Brawl of Fame is the game between the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls. 

T-Mac vs. Bobby Jackson and Kobe Bryant vs. Chris Childs

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    INDIANAPOLIS - DECEMBER 17:  Tracy McGrady #1 of the Orlando Magic looks to pass as he is covered by Ron Artest #23 of the Indiana Pacers on December 17, 2003 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The Magic won 94-90.  NOTE TO USER: User expres
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Tracy MacGrady and Bobby Jackson go into a skirmish where tempers flared, and many blows were thrown.  A misunderstanding led to the fisticuffs as T-Mac was being defensed fiercely by Bobby Jackson.  At the end of the play, T-Mac threw a ball at Jackson causing a retaliation.  You can be the judge as to who actually won the fight. This was considered a brawl because both players hit the ground and started wrestling. 

    When Kobe Bryant and Chris Childs got into a brawl, it started out with a misunderstanding and a flagrant elbow (like most brawls do).  Tempers flared and Childs was credited for landing a nice one-two punch on a young Kobe Bryant. Bryant was not backing down and neither was Childs who had been summoned by his coach with the task of guarding a taller, younger, more talented and more athletic Kobe Bryant. 

    Patrick Ewing and Shaquille O'Neal pushed and shoved each other around a little in a situation that had become common-place for both players throughout their careers.   

    Players like Charles Oakley, Charles Barkley, Rick Mahorn, Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, Ron Artest, Shaquille O'Neal, all were the quintessential and best brawlers in NBA history.

    Here you have The New York Knicks in yet another brawl which puts them on top of the list of best team brawlers in NBA history or the team involved in the most brawls over the years. 

    Coming in at a close second is Pat Riley's Miami Heat teams, who never seemed to back down from a chance to blow off some steam and enter into NBA Brawling History.  

    I am sure I left off some great ones and a lot of my research was limited to the live video footage that I was able to acquire for each fight.  

    But by now, you should get the point, and you should understand what infamous heated battles make it into The Mike Aikins NBA Brawl of Fame and what brawling in the NBA is inevitably all about.   

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