The NBA seems to attract a certain type of personality. One prone to outbursts of outlandish behavior. Here are a few classic examples.
The NBA is the weirdest sports league on Earth. That has been demonstrated most clearly by the outrageous cast of characters gracing NBA rosters over the past seven decades.
NBA referee Tim Donaghy was convicted in fixing point spreads in 2009
Jayson Williams shot and killed his limousine driver in 2002
Multiple NBA players threw punches at fans during a brawl in 2004
A wise man once said that “stupid is as stupid does.” In case of the NBA, one should replace the word “stupid” with “absurd.” These are just some of the strangest stories to be pasted on NBA headlines over the past decade.
Some of them are saddening, some contain bits of humor, and some spark outrage. But all of these stories prove that when it comes to the NBA, truth is stranger than fiction.
#1: The brawl at the Palace at Auburn Hills
It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed since that fateful night at the Palace. While Detroit has always been a tough town, no one thought it possible that fans and players would openly come to blows. For those too young to remember, the incident went down like this:
On November 14, 2004, the Indiana Pacers were on the road against the Detroit Pistons. A minor scuffle occurred on the court between the Pacers’ Ron Artest (now known as Metta World Peace) and Pistons’ enforcer “Big” Ben Wallace. Artest walked away and was regaining his composure at the scoring table.
That’s when things got weird. A Pistons fan decided to treat Artest to an ice cold beer. To be more specific, he dumped a beer onto Artest’s face. Never one to take abuse lightly, Artest and teammates Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal and Jamaal Tinsley went into the stands, leaving a trail of punched-out fans and thrown chairs in their wake.
The incident became popularly known as the “Malice in the Palace,” and resulted in several players being suspended for a total of 137 games. Five fans faced criminal charges, and NBA the instructed each team to beef up security and restrict the sale of alcohol during games.
#2: The shooting death of Gus Christofi
To this day, no one is quite sure what caused the series of events resulting in the death of Costas “Gus” Christofi, a 55-year old recovering alcoholic and heroin addict employed as the personal driver of NBA player Jayson Williams.
The official record of events is that on that fateful night in 2002, a drunken Williams (a man with his own personal demons) accidentally shot and killed Christofi. Forensic investigators determined that Williams had attempted to cover up evidence, but he was not convicted of manslaughter.
Williams was tried for a second time due to a legal technicality, and pled guilty to aggravated assault in 2010. Without question, the killing of Christofi is one the NBA’s most tragic moments.
#3: Tim Donaghy arrested for illegal gambling
The NBA lost a lot of credibility in 2007 when the story broke that veteran referee Tim Donaghy had accepted money from organized crime figures in exchange for fixing the point spread of games, including high-stakes playoff contests.
Due to restrictive American gambling laws a large portion of sports betting activity is conducted on the black market. And while the mob in America is much humbled from its mid-20th century heyday, it still has major influence in the underground betting industry.
Donaghy admitted to accepting money from mob-connected bookies on two occasions, but the majority of his misdoings involved fixing point spreads on games he had bet thousands of dollars on himself. Donaghy, who was a gambling addict, allegedly fixed spreads in order to cover his sometimes massive gambling debts.
Donaghy was eventually sentenced to 15 months in prison on corruption and wire fraud charges. While NBA Commissioner David Stern referred to him as a “rogue official,” he alleged that he knew of at least one occasion when another referee fixed the outcome of a game.
#4: Michael Jordan’s absurd Hall of Fame induction speech
Michael “His Airness” Jordan is roundly regarded as the greatest player in NBA history. He possessed unparalleled athletic ability and competitive edge, but really won America over with his charm. He had a winning smile, the ability to make anyone to feel like a million bucks, and reporters and writers always knew they could count on Michael for a witty quote.
While his forays in Atlantic City casinos were well-documented by gambling news outlets, Jordan’s reputation began to unravel after he played his last game for the Chicago Bulls in 1998. His fall from grace came in part by the awkward, vindictive speech he gave when inducted into the Professional Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Jordan spent most of his 23 minutes and 23 seconds on the podium calling out doubters and those who had made things difficult for him during his career. To be fair, he still flashed a lot of that trademark charm. His speech couldn’t have been called offensive, but it was certainly absurd. But as the greatest player of all time, he had the right to say whatever he wanted to.