The documentary provides a whole new perspective into the altercation between the Indiana Pacers NBA team and the Detroit Pistons fans at The Palace of the Auburn Hills in Michigan’s Detroit.
The documentary is told from the perspective of the Indiana Pacers players — Jermaine O'Neal, Ron Artest (legally changed to Metta Sandiford-Artest), Stephen Jackson, and the legendary Reggie Miller — who were involved in the infamous Pacers-Pistons brawl on 19th November 2004. The players were labelled as thugs by the national media for attacking the fans until a thorough investigation led to new evidence revealing that the fans may have instigated the fight.
The documentary offers a fresh perspective into what was once labeled as an outright display of violent behaviour instigated by the Indiana Pacers players on the fans. The national media of the United States were quick to antagonise the players and chastise them. The players were given unprecedented bans by the NBA and were robbed of a historical championship win for the Indiana Pacers and Reggie Miller.
An investigation into the incident by the District Attorney’s Office revealed a different version of events. The fans had turned hostile after Ron Artest fouled Ben Wallace, which led to a melee between Wallace and Artest. The fact that the Pacers had an overwhelming lead over the defending champions in their turf meant that most of the home fans had left early, and the ones that stayed behind were what one would call the ‘ultras’ in European club football terms - the hardcore fans. The European football ultras have earned notoriety over the years often compared with the football hooliganism in England.
While the Pistons fans are far cry from the ultras, they have long held a reputation in the NBA as one of the most hostile in the division at the time. The entire footage of the incident was not released to the public at the time and the players became the scapegoats. In reality, it was thousands of fans who were willing to storm the pitch to physically assault the 15 Pacers players. Despite the narrative spun by the media at the time based on the available footage, the fact was that the players were defending themselves after fans stormed the court.
However, the documentary attempts to paint a picture that the fan who threw the beer cup at Artest was fully responsible for instigating the mass brawl. An argument could be made that Artest’s reaction - jumping into the stands to attack the fan who threw the cup - was over the top. In fact, he attacked the wrong person and everything spiralled into chaos. Artest confessed that he suffered from depression and that his mental health was not the best at the time, confirmed by O’Neal, Jackson, and Miller. Throwing beer cups at players, no matter how condemnable, is not unheard of, and rarely do players react in the manner that Artest did. Of course, there have been incidents where players snap like when Manchester United legend and former captain, Eric Cantona, did when he Kung Fu kicked a Crystal Palace fan in the stands who was hurling abuse at him.
The brawl which ensued at the Pistons v Pacers game effectively ended Reggie Miller’s dream of winning the championship after 18 years with the Indiana Pacers. Sportswriters also point out that the incident also derailed Jeremiah O’Neal’s blossoming career. Artest, however, did find closure by leaving the team soon after and winning the championship with the LA Lakers.
The documentary offers plenty of original interviews from players, fans, law enforcement agencies, and organisers. It also features archival interviews as well footage of the incident itself which provides clarity.