Former Indiana Pacers center David Harrison gave his account of the "Malice at the Palace" in a pair of blog posts, saying that the infamous brawl between his team and the Detroit Pistons caused a momentous shift in his life and career.
The posts, which were edited down and re-posted by Vigilant Sports, were published over the course of this month.
On Nov. 19, 2004, during a Pacers-Pistons game at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the two teams participated in the infamous brawl, which started on the court but soon extended to fans in the stands. In the aftermath of the incident, the NBA suspended nine players, including Pacers players Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal. Harrison was not suspended despite being seen on camera fighting with fans.
Even though he wasn't directly punished by the league at the time, Harrison says that the brawl drastically changed his NBA career.
The Pacers, who had lost the Eastern Conference Finals to the Pistons the previous season, made the playoffs again in 2004-05 and 2005-06, but their record worsened significantly from the previous year. The team then failed to make the postseason until 2010-11. Harrison traces the team's decline to the brawl.
In the years following the "Malice at the Palace," Indiana dismantled the core of its roster. Harrison alleges that Indiana's trade of Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson to Golden State was "racially motivated," particularly in the context of Pacers president Larry Bird's comments on white players in the NBA.
We traded away a playoff team for 1 starter and 3 bench players in an attempt to “lighten” things up.
Harrison, now 32, also recounts how his career spiraled downward as the Pacers franchise declined. "My dream became a waking nightmare," he writes.
The center alleges that a former coach repeatedly called him a homosexual in team meetings. Harrison later calls O'Brien an "ass clown" who made him feel worthless following his drug suspension in 2008.
Harrison also discusses a 2008 "drug binge that would have made Hunter S. Thompson proud," including an apparent suicide attempt. The binge followed the announcement of Harrison's suspension.
I was trying to die “Leaving Las Vegas” style, but some force had other plans for me. I blacked out in my room at the Mondrian Hotel in Hollywood and woke up in my apartment in Indianapolis. Apparently I tried to jump off my balcony but one of the people I was with (who shall remain nameless but thanks) saw I was completely out of control and called my agent. They found me the that night and got me home.
Harrison said that he wanted to have a role in the public debate over U.S. sentencing laws and drug use.
"I wanted to try to have the public view me as a patriot for the millions of minor, non-violent, drug offenders who were serving minimum mandatory sentences, a voice for those who were afraid too of the system, but all I did was catch the ire of David J Stern and his lackey Billy Hunter," Harrison writes.
Harrison, who averaged five points per game in four NBA seasons with Indiana, most recently played professionally in China.
- Stanley Kay and Scooby Axson