You may well remember the event, or you may not have been alive to remember it. Later this month marks the 18th anniversary of what is probably the worst night in Indiana Pacers history, forever known as Malice at the Palace.
For those who don’t know, on the night of November 19, 2004, a fight erupted between the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons and fans at a street game for the Pacers. Many Pacers fans my age remember sitting at home in shock or not understanding what was happening as events began to unfold.
The importance of the event should not be underestimated. The Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons were two of the top teams in the East and had met in the Eastern Conference Finals the previous season. The series was heated and the Pistons won in six games.
With time almost up, a minor argument broke out between Ben Wallace of the Pistons and Ron Artest of the Pacers. Reggie Miller got Artest to cool down and get out of the situation. At that moment, a fan threw a cup of liquid at Artest as he tried to calm down. From then on chaos broke out.
The events of that night influenced a generation of Pacers fans. As a result of the brawl, players from both teams were suspended for a historic length of time, the NBA revised safety measures across the league and a fan base was shocked.
The events of that night influenced a generation of Indiana Pacers fans
So when Pacers fans look back, what are we to think of these events?
We should mourn the fact that one of the most promising teams in Pacer history never got a chance to fulfill their potential. Reggie Miller, who has never tasted victory in a championship, should give us a punch in the gut. We should be furious that the events of that night have set our team and our franchise back a decade.
But we should also be glad that we have become more resilient as a fanbase. We have learned never to take success for granted. A few years later we fell in love with a whole new team that felt like an underdog, led by Danny Granger. We were that humble small market team again, scrappy and ready to take on any big market with our valued free agents.
Would I change the story if I could? Of course. The safety of fans and players is paramount to a healthy basketball culture, and the Malice at the Palace has jeopardized both. But heed the knowledge that this has all led to one absolutely definable and measurable quality in Indiana Pacer basketball fans worldwide: hope.