Five years ago Thursday, Ron Artest was a part of one of the worst brawls in sports history when he and his Indiana Pacers teammates went into the stands during a game against the Detroit Pistons at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich.
Five years later, on the anniversary of that unforgettable event, Artest was tracked down before the Lakers played the Chicago Bulls at Staples Center and asked what he recalled from that night.
Artest maintained that he “didn’t start any trouble” and that he should get some of his money back after being suspended for 73 games without pay.
“I put it behind me immediately because I did nothing,” Artest said. “Tim Donaghy was refereeing that game. That’s another reason why I should get a couple of million back. Take some things into consideration and just give me some money back.”
Donaghy is the disgraced referee who served time in federal prison on allegations that he bet on games that he officiated.
“But the money went to a good cause,” Artest continued. “It went to the United Way, which I don’t know what they did with the money. . . . I felt good about that, but I would like to have a little bit, you know?
“So I’ll probably never get that back. I don’t know what they’ve done with the money. They didn’t tell us what lives they changed. . . . I would like to know that.”
The event started when Artest, a forward for the Pacers, fouled Detroit’s Ben Wallace, who shoved Artest in a game that was minutes from being over.
Artest retreated to the scorer’s table, lying down on his back, until fan John Green threw a cup of beer on Artest.
That’s when things -- and Artest -- went crazy.
Artest bolted into the stands and exchanged punches with fans, a scene that was played out on national television.
Several of Artest’s teammates went into the stands and exchanged blows with fans.
“I didn’t bring no controversy to the stands, the stands brung it to me,” Artest said Thursday night. “So that’s what’s frustrating to me still to this day, is that I didn’t start it.”
Stephen Jackson, his teammate with the Pacers, drew a 30-game suspension.
Artest lost $5 million from the suspension. He said the brawl hasn’t changed him.
“I’m putting dye in my hair and doing all kinds of designs,” Artest said. “I’m the same old person. That event had nothing to do with me.”
Artest, who has played with Sacramento and Houston since the brawl before signing with the Lakers, was asked how he felt about being associated with that night.
“If anybody can take the heat, let it be me, ‘cause I’m strong enough to take heat like that,” Artest said. “Some people are not strong enough to take that type of pressure and that type of scrutiny from the media. Some people are not strong enough to do that, so if it’s going to be anybody, it should have been me.”
In the end, Artest said he doesn’t plan on going into the stands to be involved in another fight.
“If I see something happen on the court and I’m on the court and they throw a punch or something at my teammate, I’m stepping in,” Artest said. “But if it’s just fighting and doing all the other nonsense, talking, I’ll stay back. There’s no need for me to get involved.”