Bread City Basketball


It’s the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and the Knicks are rocking black sneakers for good luck. This is their shot. 1994: the year without Jordan. New York has to win now, while they can. Because whatever little fantasy MJ is living out at that moment – pretending to be a baseball player, Indian chief, astronaut, or whatever – they all know it won’t last.

And the Knicks are winning the series 2-0, when the scuffle breaks out between Derek Harper and Jo Jo English in Game 3. These teams hate one another. Pippen and Charles Smith had technical fouls before the game even started. Now the benches clear quick.

The fight goes down to the ground on some bad jiujitsu. Arms and legs everywhere. John Starks is about to throw a punch when Phil Jackson grabs him from behind. They both get tackled into the stands, and security bodies Starks up. Ewing and Pippen play the old hold me back, hold me back game. And Pat Riley’s not even mad until Derek Harper puts hands on coach’s suit.

But the best part? David Stern sits a few mere rows from the melee. He’s literally close enough to reach out and break up the fight himself, but he can’t move. The commissioner just stares, bug-eyed, into his own personal slow motion disaster reel, as both teams crush the heavy spenders sitting courtside.

New York went on to win the series in 7 games, and Jordan returned to basketball the following season.


Warmup windbreakers tearing, assistant coaches flying everywhere. Greg Anthony snuffs KJ, and still keeps his silk shirt fresh, pre-dress code. Starks does his signature fight move, a.k.a forehead-to-forehead trash talking. Even Rolando Blackman gets up off the bench looking for some, so you know it’s good.

At the time, Phoenix and New York were the two best teams in their respective divisions. The league handed out $160,000 in fines.

The brawl doesn’t really get going until the 4:00 minute mark, but it’s worth watching the fight-before-the-fight, if only to see how funny Danny Ainge looks when he’s mad.

Gotta love the clean deco lines on that 90s Suns court design.


As our team sat in the dark, dingy locker room … I emerged from a near-comatose state and jumped up, wanting to finish the game. I have no memory of anything that occured from halftime to the next morning … What happens to the human psyche when a person suffers traumatic harm? What does a person do with the deluge of emotions that infiltrates his mind and changes from minute to minute? One minute I felt that everything would be fine, that healing was happening. The next minute all I could think about was hatred and retribution … Emotionally and philosophically, I was in a crisis. Ron Behagan, Clyde Turner, Corky Taylor, and Coach Bill Musselman had become objects of what philosophers Jeffrie G. Murphy and Jean Hampton call ‘moral hatred.’ … After college, I played for a few years with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA, but I never played with the same intensity of enjoyment that I had before the Minnesota game.

– Luke Witte’s post-brawl account is excerpted from an essay on forgiveness in Basketball and Philosophy. Sports Illustrated called the fight “the most vicious attack in college basketball lore.” This was Witte’s face. He is now a pastor.


The first fight started in the third quarter, and the whole crowd stood and looked up into the stands like this was baseball and we were following a home run. A good fight too, the kind where you can see one guy winding up from across a stadium. Play on the court was stopped. About six cops swooped in and started beating a kid with night sticks, and they cleared out a big chunk of the stadium. That was the worst mistake the cops could have made, because now the fighting started to spread.

“Come on you f**king animals, this is a basketball game!” someone yelled into a microphone. Real calming. After that, there was a scuffle every other basket.psal fight

Yeah, my girl and I had courtsides to the PSAL Championship game at MSG last night. Boys High vs. Lincoln: Brooklyn on Brooklyn? It was bound to get crazy. This is a real basketball rivalry, the kind the NBA only remembers. Knicks-Heat, Pistons-Bulls, Lincoln-Boys: these are the kind of match-ups that make sports great.

We got there twenty minutes early, and were funneled into an around the block metal detector line by a hundred cops yelling at everyone to take off their belts. It took half an hour just to get into the stadium.

“I feel like I’m Palestinian,” I said.
“If you were Palestinian, your coat would be a lot heavier,” my girl said.
Bread City Basketball: suicide bomber jokes on lock.

The crowd was about 14,000 deep with high schoolers, and FLY. Chains, grills, neon all-over hoodies, dream catchers, fur coats, gold-foil t-shirts and camo suspenders were in full effect. And everyone had at least two cell phones. A wild atmosphere.

I was personally looking forward to seeing Lance Stephenson, the next-big-thing high school player from Lincoln, and he was pretty good. He never really dominated, but he was clearly a more developed player than anyone else on the floor. Lincoln was in control the whole game. Boys and Girls made it interesting, but were never really in it.

My girl and I booked with five minutes left, and I’m glad we did, cause apparently after Lincoln won, the cops herded the whole stadium into 42nd street with horses. Sure, there were fights, but how are you going to expect anyone to act right in the street when you meet them with mounties and SWAT gear? The police classically overreacted to the situation. This was not a riot in any way.

The PSAL was previously banned from MSG after a brawl in 1964 that ended with whisky bottles raining onto the court. The championship game wasn’t allowed back until 1989.

I will allow the New York Times to have the final word:

After the game, hundreds of the teenagers descended on Times Square, where there were a handful of fights, some among the teenagers themselves and others with employees of local establishments. In one fight, a teenage girl pulled a hairpiece off the head of a cashier at a pizza restaurant and ran off with it.

lance stephenson


December 17, 2006, 7:40 pm
Filed under: Basketball, Brawls, Bread City, Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, Video | Tags: ,

STARRING: Nate “Gangsta Gangsta” Robinson and Carmelo “Softy Sucker Punch” Anthony.