|Date||December 16, 2006|
|Venue||Madison Square Garden, New York City|
The Knicks–Nuggets brawl was an on-court altercation at a National Basketball Association (NBA) game between the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York, U.S. on December 16, 2006. This altercation was the most penalized on-court fight in the NBA since the Pacers–Pistons brawl two years before.
The fight began with a flagrant foul by Knicks guard Mardy Collins on Nuggets guard J. R. Smith in the closing seconds of the game. Several players joined in the confrontation, and began to make physical contact. The fight briefly spilled into the stands, and also stretched to the other end of the court. All ten players on the floor at the time were ejected after the altercation was finished. When suspensions were announced, seven players were suspended without pay for a combined total of 47 games.
Although they were not penalized, Nuggets coach George Karl and Knicks coach Isiah Thomas were both scrutinized for their part in the brawl. Carmelo Anthony was also criticized for harming his image as a star, and several writers said the league had penalized the players excessively because it wanted to keep its image free from violence.
Entering the game, the New York Knicks had a record of 9–17 while the Denver Nuggets sported a 13–9 record. Despite trailing the entire game, the Knicks came as close as 2 points in the first half but the Nuggets regrouped and closed the half with a 13-point advantage and continued to lead in the second half by as much as 26 points in the third quarter. The Knicks briefly came within 10 points with ten minutes left in the game, but the Nuggets went on a 12–2 run and were never threatened again. Carmelo Anthony scored 24 points to lead the Nuggets, and Marcus Camby added 24 points and 9 rebounds; Stephon Marbury scored a season-high 31 points for the Knicks.
The incident occurred with 1:15 remaining in the Knicks' home game at Madison Square Garden, where the Nuggets were leading 119–100. The Knicks' Mardy Collins fouled the Nuggets' J. R. Smith on a fast break by slapping his arms around Smith's neck, knocking him to the ground. As Smith stood up to confront Collins, Nate Robinson pushed Smith away and began shouting at him. Smith charged into Robinson, causing both players to fall into the photographers and front row courtside seats, before they were quickly separated by teammates.
As the fighting was seemingly coming to an end, Carmelo Anthony punched Collins in the face, knocking him to the ground. Jared Jeffries immediately tried to attack Anthony but tripped over Marcus Camby, before being restrained by coaches and teammates, while Anthony backed up towards the Nuggets' bench. Collins also ran down the court to get at Anthony but was blocked by Nenê and Smith. All ten players on the court at the time of the incident were ejected by the officiating crew that consisted of Dick Bavetta, Violet Palmer, and Robbie Robinson.
|Player||Team||Suspension by the NBA||Salary lost|
|Anthony, CarmeloCarmelo Anthony||Nuggets||15 games||$640,097|
|Smith, J.R.J.R. Smith||Nuggets||10 games||$126,142|
|Robinson, NateNate Robinson||Knicks||10 games||$107,771|
|Collins, MardyMardy Collins||Knicks||6 games||$49,084|
|Jeffries, JaredJared Jeffries||Knicks||4 games||$189,636|
|James, JeromeJerome James||Knicks||1 game||$49,091|
NBA commissioner David Stern reacted with strict penalties for the players involved, stating, "It is our obligation to take the strongest possible steps to avoid such failures in the future." Seven players were suspended for a total of 47 games, and the players lost in excess of $1.2 million in salary. Each team was also fined $500,000.
Because Anthony's suspension was longer than 12 games, he was eligible to appeal to an arbitrator; however, Anthony eventually announced he would not attempt one, saying he did not "want to be a further distraction".
Several sportswriters said the brawl was not as violent as the Pacers–Pistons brawl two years before, and 81% of respondents in a SportsNation poll said the biggest difference between the two brawls was that it "didn't involve players going into the stands and fighting fans". However, Michael Ventre said that the Knicks and Nuggets brawl was worse because "it was touched off by the actions of players, and it escalated because of them." Several writers said that the penalties were more severe because of the Pacers–Pistons brawl, because the league was on a "very serious image-cleanup campaign."
Steve Francis claimed that the media reaction to the fight and the suspensions itself were "racially motivated." He argued that Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League had "incidents that are way worse than basketball," but did not face the scrutiny that the NBA received "because there are more black players in the NBA." This was echoed by several writers, and sportswriter-television personality Michael Wilbon said that "NBA players have endured more scrutiny, pertaining to image, than any other professional athletes in America." Martin Luther King III called for a meeting to end the violence in the NBA, stating, "Individuals who play a game should be able to conduct themselves appropriately." However, the NBA said through a spokesman that they "don't think that meeting is necessary."
Coaches' role in the brawl
Minutes before the brawl started, Knicks coach Isiah Thomas asked Carmelo Anthony not to go into the painted area around the basket, despite the fact that they were not members of the same team. Thomas later said that because Denver head coach George Karl kept his team's starting players on the court for the closing minutes of the game, which Thomas thought showed a lack of sportsmanship, his orders to Anthony were to "show some class." However, Karl responded by saying the brawl "was directed by Isiah".
Thomas was not penalized after the brawl, as an NBA investigation ruled that they did not have "adequate evidence upon which to make a determination," but several writers criticized the NBA for not including Thomas in the suspensions. ESPN analyst Marc Stein called Thomas' explanations of his comments "laughable," and commentator Greg Anthony, a former Knicks player, said he "never had a coach say that to an opponent." It was also suggested that Thomas was attempting to resurrect the physical tactics of his former team, the "Bad Boy" Pistons.
In response to Thomas saying that keeping the Nuggets starters on the floor in the final minutes of the game was unsportsmanlike, Karl said that he "never thought about running up the score," and only wanted to "get a big win on the road." However, several sportswriters criticized his decision, and some said that he should also have been penalized. It was also suggested that Karl was trying to humiliate Thomas due to the perception that Thomas had mistreated Larry Brown, a friend of Karl's. Karl was also blamed for putting his players in a position to start a fight.
The day following the brawl, Anthony issued a statement and apology to his family, the league, and fans. He also specifically apologized to Mardy Collins, whom he directly struck during the incident. At the time of the brawl, Anthony was the league's leading scorer; his suspension was also the longest of the players suspended, and the sixth-longest in NBA history. According to former NBA player Steve Kerr, Anthony had "tarnished" his image, and Ric Bucher said that Anthony had "torched his own career". Sports Illustrated writer Marty Burns said that Anthony faced becoming known by sports fans across America as the player who punched Collins in the face and then ran away. An example of the backlash was Northwest Airlines pulling Anthony from its in-flight magazine cover, as it said it did not want "to condone the behavior of Anthony".
Events after the brawl
A day after Anthony was suspended, Denver acquired Allen Iverson, who was then second in the league in scoring behind Anthony. After Anthony and Smith returned from their suspensions, the trio led the Nuggets to 45 wins and the sixth seed in the Western Conference for the playoffs. However, they were eliminated in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs. The Knicks finished 33–49, 12th in the Eastern Conference, and did not make the playoffs.
The two teams faced each other for the first time since the altercation on November 17, 2007, which the Nuggets won 115–83. Opposing players Renaldo Balkman and Linas Kleiza began arguing with each other after Balkman was called for a hard foul on Kleiza, but the incident was defused after Balkman was given a technical foul. Iverson, Anthony, and Marcus Camby were all removed early in the fourth quarter. Balkman and Kleiza later became teammates after Balkman was traded to the Nuggets in the 2008 off-season.
As of the 2010–11 season, of the seven suspended players, three were still with their respective teams. Mardy Collins was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2008. Jerome James was traded to the Chicago Bulls a year later, but never played for the Bulls as he suffered a torn Achilles tendon. Jeffries and Robinson were traded at the 2010 trade deadline to the Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics, respectively. Robinson then signed a multi-year deal with the Denver Nuggets on July 26, 2013. Carmelo Anthony was traded to the Knicks before the 2011 trade deadline. Meanwhile, Jeffries' contract was bought out by the Rockets and he rejoined the Knicks. In addition, J.R. Smith was signed by the Knicks in February of the 2012 season, which will make him the second former Nugget involved in the brawl to join the Knicks. Though not directly involved in the brawl, 2006 Nuggets C/PF Marcus Camby also joined the Knicks during the 2012 off-season, making him the third 2006 Nugget to join the Knicks for the 2012-2013 season. Also not directly involved in the brawl, PF Kenyon Martin joined the Knicks on February 21, 2013 (initially on a 10-day contract), making him the 4th member of the 2012-2013 Knicks to have been on the '06 Nuggets team.
- Pacers–Pistons brawl
- National Basketball Association criticisms and controversies
- Violence in sports
- "New York Knicks Schedule - 2006-07". ESPN. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- "Denver Nuggets Schedule - 2006-07". ESPN. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- "Denver Nuggets vs. New York Knicks - Play By Play - December 16, 2006". ESPN. December 16, 2006. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- "Nuggets, Knicks in wild free-for-all; 10 players tossed". ESPN. December 16, 2006. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
- "Nuggets-Knicks Suspensions". NBA.com. December 18, 2006. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
- "Suspensions total 47 games from Knicks-Nuggets fight". ESPN. December 20, 2006. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Stein, Marc (December 22, 2006). "Anthony doesn't want to be distraction, won't appeal". ESPN. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
- Celizic, Mike (December 18, 2006). "Plenty of blame to go around for this brawl". NBA Sports. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Miller, Ted (December 20, 2006). "Brawl fell far short of all the outrage". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "Vote: How long should 'Melo and Isiah be suspended?". ESPN. December 17, 2006. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Ventre, Michael (December 18, 2006). "Two years later, a brawl that's worse". NBC Sports. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Wilbon, Michael (December 19, 2006). "A Hittin' Image". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
- Kerr, Steve (December 18, 2006). "Rocky Mountain low". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Martin, Dan; Berman, Marc (December 19, 2006). "Knicks' Francis: Race a Factor". New York Post. Retrieved 2009-04-07.[dead link]
- DiTore, Larry (December 19, 2006). "NBA Referees Invite League, Players to Meet on Fight". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "Melo apologizes; Isiah reportedly under investigation". ESPN. December 20, 2006. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
- Dahlberg, Tim (December 18, 2006). "Column: Thomas Escapes Hands of Stern". Forbes. Archived from the original on 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
- Beck, Howard (December 19, 2006). "Lack of Evidence Lets Thomas Avoid Punishment". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Celizic, Mike (December 18, 2006). "Stern let biggest culprit in brawl off easy: Isiah". MSNBC. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
- Lupica, Mike (December 18, 2006). "Blame Isiah for brawl". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on 2006-12-22. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
- Sheridan, Chris (December 19, 2006). "Not so Stern: Commish lets Isiah off the hook". ESPN. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
- Stein, Marc (December 19, 2006). "Questions answered: Stern, Melo, Isiah and the brawl". ESPN. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Berman, Marc (December 20, 2006). "Not so Tough". New York Post. Retrieved 2009-04-07.[dead link]
- Bialik, Carl; Fry, Jason (December 19, 2006). "Thomas May Be Only Winner In Wake of NBA's Latest Fight". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Soshnick, Scott (December 18, 2006). "Thomas Has Knicks Fighting Phantoms". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Araton, Harvey (December 19, 2006). "As Thomas Takes Heat, Karl Escapes Scrutiny". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Vecsey, Peter (December 18, 2006). "Nuggets' Karl also earned ban". New York Post. Retrieved 2009-04-07.[dead link]
- May, Peter (December 19, 2006). "The Stern reality -- 7 players suspended". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "Statement from Carmelo Anthony". NBA.com. December 17, 2006. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Nance, Roscoe (December 19, 2006). "NBA hands out penalties — Anthony suspended 15 games". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Bucher, Ric (December 19, 2006). "Melo's walking a dangerous line again". ESPN. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Burns, Marty (December 17, 2006). "'Melo drama". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "Airline doesn't want to condone brawl, pulls feature". ESPN. December 20, 2006. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "Miller, Smith go to Sixers in deal for Iverson". ESPN. December 20, 2006. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "NBA Standings - 2006-2007". ESPN. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- "2006-07 Denver Nuggets Roster and Statistics". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- "Melo scores 24, Iverson adds 23 as Nuggets roll Knicks in Randolph's return". ESPN. November 17, 2007. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- Denver Nuggets (1976 - ) 2008 Stats, History, Awards and More
- Nuggets acquire Knicks' Balkman in trade package - NBA - ESPN
- "Clippers Acquire Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins From Knicks". NBA. November 21, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- "Knicks trade for Bulls' Hughes". ESPN. February 19, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- "Denver Nuggets Sign Free-Agent Guard Nate Robinson". NBA. July 26, 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-26.