We’ve all been hearing it for years: the Houston Oilers, New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, and so on. If a team is able to win a championship they are said to have been “champions in the making”. As for the Houston Oilers, they played for five years in the 80’s.

Even though the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs and Astros are projected to win the 2018 World Series, it’s the Indians who look like the most dominant team in the league right now. Cleveland is averaging 7.7 runs per game, leads the league in team ERA (2.85) and is third in MLB in team batting average (.264). The Indians have also been the best team in baseball over the last month, winning 19 of their last 21 games, including a 12-game winning streak.

A few days prior to the start of the 2016-2017 NHL season, I had a conversation with my son Nathan about the Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup last June. We were discussing how the Kings had finally won the ultimate goal that the team had set for itself when it was founded in 1972.

In the early twenty-first century, the rivalry between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons was genuine and fierce. Starting in the 2004–05 season, both clubs were considered among the greatest in the NBA. Detroit had won the NBA title, while Indiana had completed the previous season with the best record in the league. Then the Pacers’ fortunes were turned upside down by the Palace’s malice.

In November 2004, it should have been a typical early-season contest at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Indiana had a 6–2 record at the time. The reigning champions took a little longer to get going, falling down 4–3 early in the game.

The Pacers led by 16 points at halftime. The Pistons made a run because it’s the NBA and every team does it. With 7:16 left, Detroit had cut the deficit to 84–79. With fewer than three minutes remaining in the game, Indiana scored nine consecutive points to finish the competitive period. Things started to become strange at this point in the game.

With the Malice at the Palace, the Indiana Pacers’ reign as championship contenders came to an end.

The Indiana Pacers’ fortunes changed at a breakneck pace. Ron Artest (later known as Metta World Peace and now as Metta Sandiford-Artest) committed a harsh foul on Detroit’s Ben Wallace with the team up 15 points in the last minute of the game. They weren’t the Bad Boys of Pistons legend, but they were a rough, muscular group. Wallace shoved Artest and proceeded on his way. The seats on the benches had all been taken.

Artest walked up to the scorer’s table and sat down. He already had a reputation for being a jerk, and he desperately wanted to get away from Wallace. A cup of beer arced down from the throng as he lay on the table. Artest responded by running into the throng, resulting in the Malice at the Palace brawl.

Commissioner David Stern did not mince words when it came to the fines. Artest was suspended for the remainder of the season, including 73 regular-season games and 13 postseason games. Stephen Jackson is an American singer and songwriter. was given a 30-game suspension. Jermaine O’Neal was originally sentenced to 25 games, but his sentence was reduced to 15 after an appeal. Apart from the three major characters, Anthony Johnson missed five games and Reggie Miller missed one.

Five players were facing criminal charges. Artest, Jackson, O’Neal, Johnson, and backup big man David Harrison were all sentenced to a year of probation, a $250 fine, anger management counseling, and various amounts of community service.

It turns out that Indiana’s season wasn’t simply a disaster. The door to that team’s championship aspirations was slammed shut.

The repercussions of the Malice at the Palace are the subject of a new documentary.

The Detroit Pistons finished second in the Eastern Conference with a 54–28 record after the Malice at the Palace. The Indiana Pacers finished the game with a 44–38 score and were just 37–36 following the incident. The Indiana Pacers defeated the Boston Celtics in seven games, but were eliminated in the first round. The Pistons were unable to defend their championship, falling in Game 7 of the NBA Finals to the San Antonio Spurs.

In the first of five parts of the Netflix documentary series Untold: The Malice at the Palace, Jackson longingly reflected about the incident. He believes the Pacers have lost everything as a result of it.

 “We would have been champions if the incident hadn’t occurred, there’s no doubt about it. The only thing I regret about the circumstance is that we weren’t able to accomplish what we stated we would for Reggie.”

Stephen Jackson

Miller’s Hall of Fame career came to an end after the 2004-05 season. That career came to an end without a championship ring. In 2003, Jackson received one from the Spurs. Artest had to wait, but he finally won a championship with the Lakers in 2010. O’Neal was never the same after it.

On the surface, Jackson’s sorrow makes sense. But, if the Pacers had won it all, would it have been worth it?

Stephen Jackson of the Indiana Pacers arrives for a hearing on his 2004 suspension

Stephen Jackson of the Indiana Pacers arrives for a hearing on his 2004 suspension The Indiana Pacers’ Stephen Jackson comes for a meeting with the NBA Players Association to discuss his ban from basketball for his role in a fight with Detroit Pistons’ supporters during a game in Detroit. | Michael Appleton/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The Indiana Pacers held the top record in the Eastern Conference with a 7–2 record after beating the Detroit Pistons. However, there was still a lot of season remaining. Indiana has performed well in its first nine games. The sample sizes, however, are modest. A plus-1.7 net rating does not imply dynasty.

The Pacers, on the other hand, might have chased certain players available around the trade deadline. Those moves, however, were never undertaken since they were not within striking distance of the Detroit Pistons.

Baron Davis, who moved from New Orleans to Golden State, was one interesting possibility. If the Pacers had a flaw, it was at the point guard position. Jamaal Tinsley was out for half of the season, and Johnson was a backup.

The Indiana Pacers would have had a puncher’s chance if Davis had been added. Would they have won, though? We can only make educated guesses.

Basketball Reference supplied the statistics.

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