Why Lakers-Rockets fight was healthy for NBA culture

Brandon Ingram, Rajon Rondo, and Chris Paul were handed down suspensions by the NBA for their involvement in the internet-breaking brawl on Saturday night.

With many not satisfied with the mild suspensions and others saying the fight tainted Lebron James’ Staples Center debut as a Laker, this is a blessing in disguise for the NBA. The reason Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated wrote about the fines not sending a message to other NBA players is exactly why it was good for the league.

Weird statement, I know. How can fighting during a professional basketball game be a good thing for the game?

Possibly the greatest NBA fight of all-time was the “Malice in the Palace” on Nov. 19, 2004, involving the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons and the Pistons crowd. There were nine players suspended but most notably Ron Artest, later known as Metta World Peace, was suspended for 73 regular-season games and 13 playoff games, including losing nearly $5 million. Stephen Jackson was suspended for 30 games and Jermaine O’Neal was suspended for 15.

Two years later in 2006, Carmelo Anthony and his Denver Nuggets got in a brawl with the New York Knicks where Anthony earned a 15-game suspension for punching Knicks guard Mardy Collins after the Nuggets defeated the Knicks in blowout fashion. Nuggets guard JR Smith and Knicks guard Nate Robinson were suspended 10 games for their part in the fight. Collectively, the three players lost $1.64 million over it all.

After those hefty suspensions, it scared NBA players straight. One thing professional athletes love more than their respective sport is the money.

The suspensions and fines after Saturday night’s game:

Chris Paul: Three games | $491,782.
Rajon Rondo: Three games | 186,207.
Brandon Ingram: Four games | $158,816.

All things considered, these fines were relatively lax. Enough so that it may have not sent a message to other NBA players. The door could have just opened to more punches thrown across the NBA. At the end of the day the NBA is indeed an honorable sport and should be treated as such but first; it’s entertainment. Secondly, it’s a very emotional sport. One you should play with an ample amount of passion, and sometimes that turns into a fight. It is not worth a hefty, season-altering suspension.

After the two brawls in 2004 and 2006, NBA commissioner David Stern changed the league’s culture in a purer direction and more than a decade later, trash talking could be a punishable offense for a player. It’s gotten to a point where players act like they want to fight one another while allowing teammates to hold them back. It’s rather embarrassing, actually.

In the present day, the NBA has become a reality show where raw emotions are a rarity. No one wants to face a hefty suspension or a million-dollar pay cut so they don’t do or say anything that may result in that.

With Sunday’s suspensions being handed down after one of the biggest brawls since 2006, will players start letting loose a little more and take things back to the early 2000s? Basketball conservatives may be firmly against it, but those that enjoy the emotion, physicality, and passion for the sport are optimistic that Paul, Rondo, and Ingram will be the beginning of something better for the sport.

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