View Full Version : Eddie Johnson column on Artest incident

11-23-2004, 07:11 AM
clicketh (http://hoopshype.com/columns/brawl_johnson.htm)

I have been around the NBA for 25 years and I have never witnessed what I saw Friday night in Detroit. The best thing about the sport I played – other than winning – was my interaction with teammates and fans. Although there was something about each group I despised.

I had no respect for some teammates who put themselves before the team by not respecting authority and not caring about whether we won or lost.

I really disliked fans that would come to a game and hurl abusive verbal comments that had nothing to do with the way my team or I was playing the game of basketball.

All of these factors came into play Friday night in Detroit and because of it we have a total of eight players who have to explain their families – and especially their kids – why they will have to miss work and be the subject of negative criticism. Their names will be forever associated with this travesty.

The sad thing about this incident is that it was more about bravado and reputation than actually Ron Artest committing a hard foul on Ben Wallace. Wallace has been fouled a lot harder than what Artest did at the end of that game. But when Wallace turned around and saw who it was, it immediately became "enforcer against enforcer." It was a battle between the last two Defensive Players of the Year.

It became, "No, you will not come in my house and embarrass us on our home court and then have the audacity to foul me hard with the game almost over. I am big Ben Wallace. I have a reputation to adhere to in my house. So that's
why I will shove you with two hands to your throat and then proceed to chase you out of my house thus showing who is Hercules in my domain."

"Well, OK. I am Ron Artest, I have been suspended a number of times already and I have just recently been benched for two games for asking for a vacation to promote my rap CD. I know that everyone thinks I am the bad guy. So for once I will not be the bad guy. I will do the right thing and walk away, but will rub it in your face a little by lying down on the scorer's table thus sending a message to you, Big Ben, that I view your tirade as nothing but good theater."

Although this act got under Wallace's skin even more, everything seemed to be under control until the idiot with the beer. Now I will save my thoughts and experiences on fans until later, but what I saw after the beer was thrown is the most unbelievable scene I have ever witnessed.

When Ron Artest jumped into the stands, he basically said his pride was worth more than a championship ring. He knew that the one rule that has been told to NBA players forever is that you never go into the stands and confront unruly fans. Because he went in, he took an equally mad teammate like Stephen Jackson with him. The decision by Artest, Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal has undoubtedly cost Indiana another run at a championship and thus presents the question of what is more important to these players: personal pride or the team.

Well, I guess we know the answer to that.

Let's not forget or ignore that this would have never happened had one idiotic fan not decided to throw a beer into the face of Artest. Because he felt that an invisible barrier protected him, he decided to add to the confrontation. Fans are more a part of basketball than any other sport, but you have a number of them who seem to think that they have a right to say and do whatever they please because they pay to attend games. This is where a fine line has to be drawn. I always found that ignoring an unruly fan was the best remedy. But I can recall two instances in my career – one funny and one serious – where I felt the need to respond.

One time in Utah during the playoffs when I was a player for the Seattle Sonics, a fan seated to the left of our bench was verbally abusing everyone from the coaches on down to the equipment manager. Although he had the whole section laughing, I decided it was enough when he centered on one of my good friends on the team, Steve Scheffler. I decided to give him a dose of his own medicine. I went on a five-minute non-stop description of his looks, clothes and why he was so unhappy. The whole section was hysterical – including his wife. If he had a gun, he would have shot me. He was so embarrassed. I wish I could have filmed that to show it to all those fans who feel that their sole purpose in attending a game is to verbally abuse players.

The other was not so funny. In the 1994-95 season, I played overseas in Athens, Greece for Olympiakos. It was my first game on the road in a high school-sized gym. While I was taking the ball out of bounds on the baseline, I felt a liquid being thrown on my back. I just figured someone was throwing water on me, but when I turned around, it was a fan right behind spitting at me and cursing me in Greek. I am not a violent person, but the way I felt in that moment, he might as well have been beating up my kid. I proceeded to make the ball a part of his face thus breaking his nose, then I calmly gave the ball to the official and continued the game. What a difference a country makes. In Greece, my response was justifiable.

That fan felt obligated to do it because he felt protected – as did the fan in Detroit. That fan felt he was doing something to help Ben Wallace and the Pistons, but all he did was help incite a near riot.

Now, we have the Indiana Pacers without their best all-around player for the rest of the year and MVP candidate Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson gone for a total of 55 games. These players feel that they had to do what our young culture refers to when someone supposedly punks you – man-up.

Well, when it's all said and done the three Pacers will have man-ed up over $11 million.


Suspensions are justifiable, but Artest's could have been lighter to send a message to fans.

I have no problem with the suspensions that were dealt out by Commissioner David Stern other than to say that I fail to see where it would stop some fans' constant abuse of our players. Now an unruly fan will be very secure in knowing that he or she can say and act out of line without any player even thinking about going into the stands.

Yes, I know they will threaten fans with expulsion and lost of season tickets. Will that same rule apply to teams like Atlanta that play in half-empty buildings every night and cannot afford to lose season-ticket holders? These are the questions that players will want answered in the fallout of this very sad event.

I think Ben Wallace should have gotten at least 10 games because he overreacted and those Detroit fans should be held accountable as well by losing 5 to 10 home games. And because Detroit's fans were so unruly and antagonistic, Ron Artest should have had a chance to be able to at least play by season's end.

11-23-2004, 03:02 PM
That's a very reasonable article.



11-23-2004, 03:15 PM
Pretty good.