The NBA is now one of the world’s most prominent and well-followed sports leagues. Its popularity is so alluring that one of its most renowned players, LeBron James, can feature in the critically panned Space Jam 2 and compete with a Marvel film on its opening weekend.
NBA players are often regarded as some of the most marketable, philanthropic, and socially concerned athletes. Steph Curry recently gave six years of financing to Howard University’s golf team, LeBron James supported a voting campaign last year, and Michael Jordan has cemented his position in our society as a beacon of greatness and funny memento.
However, the NBA’s pristine image wasn’t always the case. In the final minutes of a game between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons on November 19, 2004, a scuffle broke out between players and spectators. That game remains one of the league’s most iconic and contentious moments to this day.
Netflix’s Untold: Malice in the Palace skillfully portrays the tale of everything that transpired that day, from the players’ perspective to the iconic beer thrower who began it all.
The documentary has little trouble capturing your attention simply because of its subject matter. The fans and players fighting concept is strange since it contradicts the social contract between viewers and sports performance. Last weekend, soccer fans witnessed a similar incident between OGC Nice and Marseille, two clubs in France’s Ligue 1.
What distinguishes this video from others is that it masterfully illustrates how America’s ideas on race, mental health, and poisonous sports media came together to stoke the fires of controversy.
Unlike the sports media of the time, which repeatedly referred to the players as “thugs,” Untold does an excellent job of establishing and hearing the tales, motives, and sentiments of the players who were involved that night. Jermaine O’Neal, Ron Artest (later known as Metta-World Peace), Stephen Jackson, Ben Wallace, and the legendary Reggie Miller provide vital, previously unseen viewpoints and facts on the incident.
Previously, commissioner David Stern issued a gag order to the players, prohibiting them from publicly discussing the incident. As a result, all of the players were fined and suspended for significant season periods, with Artest’s suspension being the longest and spanning the rest of the season.
Other significant people included in the documentary include:
- Police officers who were present in the building.
- A fan who was hit on the court by Artest.
- The iconic fan who tossed the drink sparked the entire incident.
It took great, well-researched journalism to get everyone on board to tell their experiences.
The documentary exposes the spectator to infinite discoveries by weaving in the experiences of everyone who witnessed it firsthand. For example, did you know that when Ron Artest lay down on the scorer’s table, he was performing a mental health exercise given to him by his therapist? Did you know that a lawyer reviewed the case and decided that the NBA’s sanctions were excessively harsh?
These and other facts were exposed in a fantastic first episode of Untold. Later episodes will concentrate on their own misinterpreted events, but it will be hard to match the first episode, Untold: Malice in the Palace, was compelling, unsettling, and timely.