Sports

The Biggest Basketball Brawls and Fights in NBA History  

Brandon Oliver
181.3k views 21 items

When you combine trash talk and the physical nature and high emotions of an NBA game, things can sometimes get out of control. The NBA has seen hundreds one-on-one fights through its many years of basketball history, but it is the all out brawls among teams, players, coaches, and sometimes even fans, that remain etched in our collective sports memories. There have been instances where a fan has hit a player in the face with a cup of beer, ongoing feuds between players and teams, and healthy rivalries that blossomed into perpetual battles royale.

During the 1980s and 1990s the NBA was used to seeing scuffles breakout on a nightly basis with teams like the rugged New York Knicks, the "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons, the Chicago Bulls, the Indiana Pacers, the Miami Heat, and the Boston Celtics all regularly contributing to the mayhem. All out brawls became commonplace in the NBA during the final quarter of the 20th century and they weren't always broken up in a timely fashion.

Things were so tense and physical during the NBA's glory years that fouls that you'd think would easily get a player ejected and suspended, were nothing more than a personal foul. Remember when Celtic Kevin McHale dropped a wicked hard clothesline on the Laker Kurt Rambis? It nearly caused a bi-coastal war among the NBA's two most storied franchises and officials called nothing more than a personal foul on McHale.

One of the most memorable major brawls in NBA history was, of course, when the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers came together in what became known as "The Malice in the Palace." There have been many scuffles in the NBA but these are perhaps the biggest basketball brawls and fights of all time. Check out these fights, then head over and check out the craziest NBA brawls of the 2019-20 season.

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Kurt Rambis and Kevin McHale: The Clothesline
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Video: YouTube
One of the dirtiest plays in NBA history came in the finals between the two foes who make up one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. The crazy thing is, it was simply called a personal foul and didn't result in any ejections, despite the fact that the benches quickly emptied. Still, the clothesline alone warrants inclusion on this list.
Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal
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Video: YouTube
Two of the biggest characters in NBA history went at it when Barkley threw the ball in Shaq's face after O'Neal gave him a quick stiff arm to the face. Both teams quickly emerged on the scene to create a dog pile, which saved us all from having to watch, "The Round Mound of Rebound," and "Shaq Diesel," rolling around on the hardwood together. Of course, the two held a pseudo rematch many years later on the set of TNT's Inside the NBA.
Kobe Bryant and Chris Childs
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Video: YouTube
Kobe Bryant is in rarified air when it comes to his competitiveness on the court. His attitude and arrogance have endeared him to Laker fans for nearly two decades, while infuriating opponents and opposing fans alike. However, Kobe should stick to his day job because his fighting skills are lacking. Maybe the dude has a great jab, but it's Chris Childs. Come on, Kobe!
Shawn Bradley: The Body Slam
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Video: YouTube
The footage is grainy, but it's still easy to tell that a 7-foot-6 man is being lifted up, folded in half and slammed to the hardwood by another player. Getting body slammed on any surface, no matter the size of the person, has to hurt, but being seven and a half feet tall and having that happen on a basketball court? Yikes. Cheers to you, Shawn Bradley!