With just 45.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter, players from both teams got into a serious altercation that turned into a brawl both on the court and in the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
One player that was heavily involved in the brawl was then-Pacers big man Jermaine O’Neal. As a result, he received a huge suspension and lost a chunk of his salary. Beyond that, O’Neal himself seemingly believes that the incident impacted the rest of his career.
“Once the brawl happened, everything changed,” he said. “The league, at the time, was ready to erase everything, no matter what you did, right? I remember going down to the All-Star Game as a starter, and my picture ain’t nowhere to be found, period. I led the league in blocks and don’t make a All-Defensive team. I averaged two blocks a game for 11 straight years and have never made a All-Defensive team.”
O’Neal then admitted that the experience of the infamous brawl and its repercussions led to him falling out of love with basketball. It’s a pretty stunning admission and certainly adds a new wrinkle to one of the NBA’s darkest days.
Though O’Neal certainly struggled with the backlash from the incident, he did go on to play for many more years in the NBA. His last season in the NBA was the 2013-14 campaign. He concluded his career as a six-time All-Star. He was awarded All-NBA honors on three different occasions.