Lakers Moments: Kermit Washington and the punch heard ‘round the NBA

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Strong man: Lakers forward Kermit Washington dunks a ball during a game in Los Angeles in 1974.

Originally drafted by the Lakers in 1973, the well-muscled Washington, reputed to be the strongest man in the league, was expected to provide plenty of help inside scoring and rebounding, but he languished his first three seasons, never averaging more than four points or six rebounds. However, Washington’s game improved and he averaged nine points and nine rebounds during the 1976-77 season.


Though he was a solid NBA player, Washington’s career has been forever shaded by the ugliest on-court incident in NBA history.

The following season Washington’s game continued to develop but all of that would soon be overshadowed in a game against the Houston Rockets. Washington, trying to break up a scuffle between Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Houston’s Kevin Kunnert, saw Rockets player Rudy Tomjanovich run toward him and turned and delivered a punch so devastating that it nearly killed Tomjanovich and effectively ended his NBA career.

Washington was fined $10,000 and suspended for 60 days.

See video of the punch below.

Read more about Kermit Washington in All Things Lakers, the L.A. Times’ interactive database of all things purple and gold.

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--Steve Lowery