Alvin Robertson claimed to be the peacemaker. Shaquille O’Neal called him the instigator.
Either way, both players were ejected Tuesday night as the Orlando Magic defeated the Detroit Pistons, 105-91.
O’Neal, struggling through a sub-par offensive night, swung at Robertson after the Piston guard kept him from going after Bill Laimbeer with 2:13 left.
O’Neal, who exchanged words with Laimbeer two minutes earlier, was upset that Laimbeer had fouled him again. Robertson said something to O’Neal after letting him go and the 7-foot-1 rookie then smacked Robertson on the left side of the face.
“I think he was reacting to the previous foul and was still upset,” Robertson said. “I think he made up his mind that if Bill fouls him, he was going after him.”
O’Neal said Robertson threw the first punch.
“The league has got to do something about this. He got on me, started talking stuff like ‘rookie this, rookie that.’ I turned and walked away and he hit me. So I hit him back,” O’Neal said.