An incident from NBA history receives the documentary treatment in Netflix’s Untold: Malice at the Palace from director Floyd Russ. November 19th, 2004, is a moment the NBA would relatively soon forget, but for the players, coaches, referees, and fans who lived through it, it is simply a night they cannot shake from their memory or their reputations. It was an early-season game, but for the perennially losing Indiana Pacers, there was no better place to stamp their newfound dominance than against the defending champions and bitter rival Detroit Pistons.
As the game neared its end, Indiana firebrand Ron Artest shoved Detroit’s Ben Wallace, sparking a brawl between the two clubs. When one fan arced a perfectly tossed cup of beer onto Artest’s chest, it unleashed a type of melee that had never been seen before in the history of the NBA:
- Players rushed into the stands.
- Fans ran onto the court.
- Police rushed into the building, trying to control the unrest.
Days later, to protect the league’s image, commissioner David Stern suspends Artest for the entirety of the season, along with 30 games for his teammate Stephen Jackson and 25 games for Jermaine O’Neal, the most extended suspensions in NBA history.
The media then followed suit by labeling the players involved as an unruly bunch of “thugs.” Now, for the first time, we see the never-before-seen footage of that night. Additionally, we hear the story firsthand from those that lived it, allowing the players to explain their actions and defend their character against a night that left their reputations stained both on and off the court.
I lived in Europe as a member of the United States Air Force when the Malice at the Palace occurred. Due to not being super deep into sports and the time difference, I did not see the event happen live. However, I do remember some of my battle buddies talking about the incident the next day. It was not until Netflix announced their newest documentary series that the event crossed my mind. Viewing the documentary with my wife was an eye-opening experience.
One of the things I enjoyed about the documentary is the filmmaker’s approach to the material. Untold: Malice at the Palace starts with some history on Indiana Pacers basketball before moving into the incident. While I don’t want to spoil what ultimately lead to the melee, I will say that fans and spectators sometimes forget, that despite all of the money that athletes are making, they are still human beings and deserve respect. Untold: Malice at the Palace is not a fluff piece, and we get to hear from both fans and NBA players who were involved.
Clocking in at only 69 minutes, Untold: Malice at the Palace is worth the watch.
Final Grade: B+
Untold: Malice at the Palace is available to stream tomorrow August 10th