Top 10 Most Notable Fights in Sports History

Sports have always been competitive. Sometimes tensions flare up and two teams get into a fight. In a competitive environment, fights are bound to occur from time to time. Whether it’s a rivalry where there’s already bad blood between two teams or not, most of the time tensions rise because of something that happens during the game. Usually some form of taunting or excessive physical contact beyond the normal course of play. For the purposes of this list I look for what caused the brawl, who was involved, and the aftermath.
The Top Ten
1 Detroit Pistons vs Indiana Pacers

Of course, #1 is Malice in the Palace. Happening in 2004, Indiana's Ron Artest committed a hard foul on Detroit's Ben Wallace in the final minute of the game. Wallace shoved Artest, and the teams scuffled but were soon separated. The real drama began after a fan in the stands threw a drink at Artest, and he charged into the stands and attacked a fan.

Artest was suspended for the rest of the season, totaling 73 regular-season games and 13 playoff games, which is the NBA's longest suspension for a non-drug-related incident. Eight other players were suspended a total of 60 games for the brawl and aftermath that ensued. Artest, Jermaine O'Neal, and Stephen Jackson, who also entered the stands, were all charged with assault and received a year of probation and mandated community service.

2 New York Yankees vs Boston Red Sox (2003)

This is one of the most historical rivalries in all of sports, going all the way back to the beginning of organized baseball. Of course, there are bound to be moments where these two teams clash.

There have been numerous incidents over the years, but for this list, we will be focusing on the brawl in 2003. This wasn't just any game. It was in the ALCS, Game 3 to be specific. The fight began after Boston's Pedro Martinez threw behind Karim Garcia's head in the top of the fourth inning. The umpire ruled it hit Garcia in the back and awarded him first base. Garcia then ran for second and slid hard into second baseman Todd Walker, knocking him down.

The peak of this saga was when Pedro Martinez grabbed Yankees manager Don Zimmer and knocked him to the ground. Surprisingly, nobody was ejected throughout all of this. Later in the game, there was an incident between the Yankees bullpen and a Boston groundskeeper. The Yankees won this game and ultimately the series.

3 Boston Bruins vs New York Rangers

On Dec. 23, 1979, several Bruins players went over the boards and into the N.Y. stands, assaulting a number of fans. One fan had his shoe taken off and was beaten with it. The video is readily available on YouTube and is quite a trip.

This incident may have been the straw that broke the camel's back regarding the NHL's "Goon Era." The NHL was under fire for a perceived lack of control (or even clandestine endorsement) of fighting and extremely chippy play. A few teams were clearly built around hammering more skilled teams. It largely worked, but not against the best NHL team of the time, the Montreal Canadiens, who could beat these physical teams at their game or at skilled hockey. The NY Islanders followed the Canadiens' blueprint and could beat all comers however they wished to play.

However, this apparently sanctioned goonery got the NHL in hot water with a few court cases of legalized assault. It became a good time for the NHL to move away from goon hockey and back to a more skilled brand of hockey. It didn't hurt that the NHL welcomed a young and highly skilled Wayne Gretzky and his Edmonton Oilers to usher in this era of reemphasized skilled play.

4 Detroit Red Wings vs Colorado Avalanche

Going into this game, the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche were ready to fight. Tensions were already high after they played in the 1996 playoffs, capped off by an illegal check into the boards from Colorado's Claude Lemieux that severely injured Kris Draper. Detroit was ready for vengeance.

In the first period of their 1997 matchup, a series of several simultaneous fights broke out, with Darren McCarty pummeling Lemieux. All in all, there were 10 fights and over two hours of combined penalty minutes. The Red Wings won 6-5, with McCarty notching the winning goal in overtime. The Red Wings would win the Stanley Cup that year.

5 Miami vs FIU

This incident began when several FIU players seemed to be angered by a Miami player showboating after a touchdown. The Hurricanes were killing the Panthers as it was already 28-0 before the touchdown. After the extra point, which made it 35-0, several FIU players began fighting with their opponents, leading to an all-out brawl among the two teams.

A Miami player swung his helmet at several Golden Panthers, while an injured FIU player swung his crutches in the scrum. In total, this brawl was so large that 31 different players combined were suspended for their involvement. Miami earned 13 suspensions, while FIU received 18.

6 New York Knicks vs Miami Heat

In the late 90s, the Knicks and Heat developed a rivalry when they repeatedly played against each other in the playoffs. This brawl was centered around New York's Larry Johnson and Miami's Alonzo Mourning. Both players were former teammates but had a falling out in Charlotte.

This game was pretty physical, and with mere seconds to play, Mourning and Johnson got fired up and started swinging wildly at one another. None of the punches landed, but both teams faced huge suspensions that impacted the series. This fight is remembered for Jeff Van Gundy's desperate attempt to stop the fight by grabbing onto Mourning's leg. Mourning, Johnson, and New York's Chris Mills were all suspended for the following game.

7 Myles Garrett vs Mason Rudolph

The Steelers and Browns had an ugly end to their game in 2019 when Browns defensive end Myles Garrett received the longest suspension in NFL history for a single on-field act after this ugly incident against rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

With just a few seconds left in the game, Garrett ripped off the helmet of Steelers QB Mason Rudolph. When Rudolph charged at Garrett in retaliation, Garrett smashed Rudolph on top of the head with it. Pittsburgh's offensive lineman David DeCastro quickly took Garrett to the ground, while center Maurkice Pouncey punched and kicked him. The teams were separated after some additional fighting.

After the incident, 33 different players were punished, with fines totaling nearly $750,000. Three players were suspended, including Garrett, who sat out the rest of the season.

8 Chicago Cubs vs Chicago White Sox

The Chicago rivalry between the North Side Cubs and South Side White Sox got heated in 2006 after a collision at the plate. A.J. Pierzynski had earned a reputation for antagonizing opponents, and he did just that with the White Sox. In a play at the plate, he ran over Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, then slapped home plate and got in Barrett's face in a taunting way.

Barrett responded by winding up and hitting Pierzynski. Players poured out of the dugouts, starting a melee around home plate. For his role in the fight, Barrett earned a 10-game suspension. For the White Sox, outfielder Brian Anderson was banned for five games, and third base coach Joey Cora was suspended for two. Everyone else who participated was fined.

9 Kansas vs K-State

A massive brawl broke out as Kansas completed a dominating win over their rivals, Kansas State. As they dribbled out the clock to close out the game, Kansas State's DaJuan Gordon stole the ball and went up for a lay-in, only to be blocked by Kansas' Silvio De Sousa and fall to the ground.

After De Sousa stood over him to taunt, players from both sides poured onto the floor, and a fight ensued. Punches were thrown, and fans sitting nearby scrambled out of the way. At one point, De Sousa even raised a chair over his head before a coach took it out of his hands. All but five players on each team were ejected. De Sousa was suspended for 12 games, and three other players were suspended for a combined 13 games.

This is not only a rare occasion in college basketball but also the fact that this was a blowout makes this fight even more perplexing to me.

10 New York Knicks vs Denver Nuggets

The Knicks were playing Denver and losing 119-100 with a minute to go. New York seemed upset that many of Denver's starters were still in the game, potentially running up the score. As J.R. Smith tried to run for a breakaway dunk, he was hammered by New York's Mardy Collins.

Players pushed and shoved, Smith wrestled with Nate Robinson, and punches were thrown. After the fight seemed to die down, Denver's Carmelo Anthony further escalated the saga when he punched Collins in the face. The inciting foul seemed to be premeditated, as New York's Robinson said after the game, "we're not going to let guys keep dunking when they're up 20."

Anthony received the largest suspension, at 15 games. Smith and Robinson missed 10 games, Collins was suspended for six, and New York's Jared Jeffries earned a four-game ban.

The Contenders
11 Jose Bautista vs Rougned Odor

The bad blood between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers began when the teams played against each other in the 2015 playoffs. Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista flipped his bat after hitting what would be the biggest home run in that series.

The next year when they played again, pitcher Matt Bush hit Bautista with a pitch. Bautista responded by sliding beyond second base as he was trying to break up a double play, almost hitting the second baseman Rougned Odor. It's worth noting that these types of slides can be dangerous, especially for the fielder. Odor responded by pushing Bautista, then punched him in the face.

Both benches cleared, and 14 players and coaches were punished over the incident.

12 Pete Rose vs Bud Harrelson
13 Ron Delorme vs Jamie Macoun
14 Atlanta Braves vs San Diego Padres
15 Andre Johnson vs Cortland Finnegan
16 Juan Marichal vs John Roseboro
17 Montreal Canadiens vs Quebec Nordiques
18 Philadelphia Flyers vs Ottawa Senators
19 Real Madrid vs Barcelona
20 Mike Tyson vs Evander Holyfield
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