National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern announces a handful of suspensions resulting from a brawl that erupted during a Nov. 19 game between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons in Detroit, during a hastily called news conference Sunday, Nov. 21, 2004, at Madison Square Garden in New York. The harshest penalty was against Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest, who was suspended for the remainder of the season.
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
NEW YORK Ron Artest was suspended for the rest of the season Sunday and two of his Indiana Pacers teammates must miss a total of 55 games for fighting with fans in a melee that broke out at the end of a game against the Detroit Pistons.
Overall, the NBA banned nine players for more than 140 games, some of the harshest penalties ever issued. Artest is the first player to be suspended for nearly an entire season for a fight during a game.
''The message the league sent was so powerful to players that they'll never do that again,'' Pistons CEO Tom Wilson said.
Indiana's Stephen Jackson was suspended for 30 games and Jermaine O'Neal for 25. Detroit's Ben Wallace whose shove of Artest after a foul led to the 5-minute fracas drew a six-game ban, while Pacers guard Anthony Johnson got five games.
''I'm sick about that for Indiana. I'm devastated for them,'' Pistons coach Larry Brown said. ''And we lost our heart and soul.''
Four players were suspended for a game apiece: Indiana's Reggie Miller, and Detroit's Chauncey Billups, Elden Campbell and Derrick Coleman.
All of the suspensions are without pay.
''We have to make the point that there are boundaries in our games,'' NBA commissioner David Stern said. ''One of our boundaries, that have always been immutable, is the boundary that separate the fans from the court. Players cannot lose control and move into the stands.''
Artest, O'Neal and Jackson who all threw punches at fans in the stands or on the court at the end of the nationally televised Pacers-Pistons game Friday night began serving their suspensions Saturday. Indiana, limited to just six players because of the suspensions and injuries, dropped an 86-83 decision to Orlando.
The NBA also has to ''redefine the bounds of acceptable conduct for fans attending our games and resolve to permanently exclude those who overstep those bounds,'' Stern said.
He added that security procedures in all NBA arenas will be reviewed and rules need to be added to prevent a repeat of what happened at Auburn Hills, Mich., on Friday.
For Sunday night's home game against the Charlotte Bobcats Detroit's first outing since the melee the Pistons doubled the number of armed police to about 20 in the arena and increased other arena security personnel by about 25 percent.
When some spectators lined up to take pictures with Pistons guard Lindsey Hunter on the court before the game, two police officers stood just a few feet away.
The brawl was particularly violent, with Artest and Jackson bolting into the stands near center court and throwing punches at fans after debris was tossed at the players.
Later, fans who came onto the court were punched in the face by Artest and O'Neal.
Nine people were treated for injuries, and police are investigating possible criminal charges.
Jackson joined Artest and threw punches at fans, who punched back. At one point, a chair was tossed into the fray.
The most recent example of an NBA player going into the stands and punching a fan came in February 1995, when Vernon Maxwell of the Houston Rockets pummeled a spectator in Portland. The league suspended him for 10 games and fined him $20,000.
Among the harshest non-drug-related penalties in NBA history was a one-year suspension of Latrell Sprewell later reduced to 68 games for choking Golden State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo at practice.
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