I watched this game, and let me just say – awesome. A good, close game, capped off by a bench-clearing brawl and multiple ejections? Does it get better than that? The suits that run professional basketball, and the players involved, may parrot the lines about “embarrassing the sport” and “not how we want to represent ourselves”. But it’s a simple truth: people love a good fight at a sporting event. Whether it’s hockey players ripping each other’s clothes off or baseball players ineffectually posturing at each other or soccer players slap-fighting and/or head-butting each other – fights are exciting! They bring an extra dimension to something that is, by nature, fairly routine. I mean, that’s why people watch hockey, right?
Here’s how it all went down:
The play before, 8 seconds left in a four-point game, Cheryl Ford got all tangled up and violent with Candace Parker under the basket. Candace was furious, but didn’t say anything – Lisa Leslie made sure of that – but everyone was apparently still ticked with four seconds to go, on the line while Marie Ferdinand-Harris of the Sparks shot free throws. Plenette Pierson and Candace, who has been getting increasingly chippy all night, blocked each other out to the point of violence, and stumbled backwards. Plenette tripped Candace, or at least knocked her off balance, and then stomped towards her, yelling down at her prone form – bitch move, Plenette, damn. Apparently she didn’t know two things – one, that Candace has a very large older brother; and two, that Candace Parker is badass – because she was taken by surprise when Candace grabbed her by the waist and used her momentum to fling her punk-ass to the ground. A totally awesome fist fight could then have commenced, but no. Everyone ran out on the court to split them apart, and several Shock players dragged Plenette away – including Cheryl Ford, who injured herself and ended her own season in the process.
Now here’s the part that people are getting upset about: Lisa Leslie ran towards the fight, presumably to protect her teammate, who was still on the ground. Unfortunately, Rick Mahorn’s tractor-sized ass was in the way, playing bouncer, for some reason. He grabbed her ams as she tried to run past him; flailing to break free, she fell backwards as he pushed her away. I’m certain that he pushed her; I’m equally certain that it was her own off-balance position that made her fall; I’m equally certain that he did not intend it in violence or anger; I’m equally certain that he should not have been interacting with the other team’s players in the first place. I don’t think it’s a matter of a man pushing a woman. She’s a professional basketball player – she can take a shove (particularly one not meant in anger); I think it was more a matter of a coach pushing a player from the other team. What happened next was the only amusingly girly moment of the entire affair: DeLisha Milton-Jones, angry at this treatment of her teammate and friend, pounded him on the back and slapped him on the shoulder in feminine fury. His facial reaction was pure lulz: “Did something just hit me?” followed by “What, what’d I do?”
Four people were ejected for this: Plenette Pierson, Candace Parker, DeLisha Milton-Jones, and Rick Mahorn. When play finally resumed, Katie Smith – who had been conversing with Bill Laimbeer for most of the play stoppage – stepped on the court and nailed a three, bringing the game within one. Now, to me, that indicates that Bill Laimbeer had planned the whole taunt-the-other-team’s-star-player-into-retaliation strategy – but maybe my opinion of Bill Laimbeer is too low?
Nah. Anyway, here’s the video.
The Shock fouled, the Sparks made the free throws without further incident, and LA ended up winning the game. Ten people were suspended, including the four ejected and several that tried to stop the fight. Candace was suspended for a game; Mahorn was suspended for two games; Plenette Pierson was suspended four games. So what are the ultimate repercussions to this?
Ultimately, not all that much – the only surprise is that it’s never happened before. It’s yet more proof, if one needed it, that Bill Laimbeer is a dirty guy and taught his players his ways; it’s proof that a girl fight is, while awesome, not necessarily any less violent or vicious than a boy fight. It also proves that the W is more logical than the NBA – doesn’t a one or four game suspension for fighting make more sense than a fifteen or twenty-five game suspension for the same offense? I, as a basketball lover, think the game would be improved by the occasional bravado-filled, high-school-style* brawl. For that matter, the NBA would be better if it were more like the W in terms of toughness – the ladies flop less, play harder, and actually fight instead of doing the whole “You’re lucky my teammates are holding me back, man!” thing. There’s something ironic in that, I think…
*In my last year of high school, ten of our varsity team’s twelve players were suspended three games for a massive, everyone-throwing-punches, parents-coming-down from-the-bleachers-to-fight brawl on the road. It’s okay, though! Our team was only 2-9 at the point. Besides, they say they totally would have won if they hadn’t been outnumbered. High school sports are fun.