The 7 Worst Things to Happen in NBA History

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The National Basketball Association (NBA) has provided fans with thrilling moments, incredible performances, and unforgettable memories for over seven decades. However, not everything in the league’s history has been sunshine and rainbows. From devastating injuries to off-court scandals, the NBA has had its fair share of dark moments. In this article, we’ll explore the seven worst things to happen in NBA history.

1. The Malice at the Palace

A Brawl That Shocked the Sports World

On November 19, 2004, a brawl broke out between players and fans during a game between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. With less than a minute remaining in the game, Pacers player Ron Artest (now known as Metta Sandiford-Artest) fouled Pistons center Ben Wallace, leading to a heated altercation.

As the situation seemed to be calming down, a fan threw a drink at Artest, who then charged into the stands, sparking a full-scale brawl involving players, fans, and even coaches. The incident, dubbed “The Malice at the Palace,” resulted in nine players being suspended for a total of 146 games, with Artest receiving the longest suspension in NBA history at 86 games.

2. Len Bias’ Tragic Death

A Promising Career Cut Short

In the 1986 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics selected University of Maryland star Len Bias with the second overall pick. Bias was a 6’8″ forward with incredible athleticism and scoring ability, drawing comparisons to Michael Jordan. Tragically, just two days after being drafted, Bias died of a cocaine overdose in his college dorm room.

The basketball world was shocked and devastated by the loss of such a promising young talent. Bias’ death not only deprived the NBA of a potential superstar but also shed light on the drug abuse issues plaguing society at the time.

3. The Tim Donaghy Betting Scandal

A Referee’s Betrayal of Trust

In 2007, the NBA was rocked by a scandal involving referee Tim Donaghy, who was found to have bet on games he officiated and provided inside information to gambling associates. Donaghy had been an NBA referee for 13 years before the scandal came to light.

The revelation of Donaghy’s actions cast doubt on the integrity of the league and its officiating. It raised questions about whether games had been influenced by his betting activities and damaged the trust between fans, players, and the league itself.

4. Magic Johnson’s HIV Announcement

A Superstar’s Shocking Revelation

On November 7, 1991, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Magic Johnson held a press conference to announce that he had tested positive for HIV and would be retiring from the NBA. At the time, HIV/AIDS was highly stigmatized, and many people believed it to be a death sentence.

Johnson’s announcement sent shockwaves through the sports world and beyond. His decision to go public with his diagnosis helped raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and challenged stereotypes about the disease. While Johnson’s announcement was initially devastating, his openness and activism in the years that followed helped change perceptions and support those affected by HIV/AIDS.

5. Kermit Washington’s Punch

A Devastating Blow

During a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets on December 9, 1977, Lakers forward Kermit Washington threw a devastating punch that nearly killed Rockets player Rudy Tomjanovich. The incident occurred after a scuffle between several players, with Washington mistakenly believing Tomjanovich was coming to attack him from behind.

The punch fractured Tomjanovich’s skull, jaw, and nose, leaving him unconscious in a pool of blood on the court. He required extensive surgery and months of recovery. The incident remains one of the most brutal acts of violence in NBA history and led to increased penalties for fighting on the court.

6. The Donald Sterling Scandal

Racism at the Top

In 2014, TMZ released an audio recording of then-Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist comments to his girlfriend. In the recording, Sterling admonished her for associating with black people and bringing them to Clippers games.

The scandal sparked outrage among players, fans, and the general public. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver swiftly issued a lifetime ban to Sterling and fined him $2.5 million, the maximum allowed under the league’s constitution. Sterling was eventually forced to sell the team, marking the end of his controversial tenure as an NBA owner.

7. The Derrick Rose Injuries

A Superstar’s Repeated Setbacks

Derrick Rose, the first overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, quickly became one of the league’s most exciting young stars. In 2011, at age 22, he became the youngest player ever to win the NBA MVP award. However, Rose’s promising career was derailed by a series of devastating knee injuries.

In the 2012 playoffs, Rose tore his left ACL, causing him to miss the entire 2012-13 season. Upon his return, he suffered another knee injury, this time a torn meniscus in his right knee, which limited him to just 10 games in the 2013-14 season. Rose’s repeated injuries not only robbed him of his prime years but also significantly impacted the Chicago Bulls’ chances of contending for a title during that period.


The NBA has experienced its share of heartbreaking moments, scandals, and tragedies throughout its history. From on-court violence to off-court controversies, these events have left an indelible mark on the league and its fans. While it’s important to celebrate the NBA’s triumphs and the incredible athletes who have graced the court, it’s equally crucial to acknowledge and learn from the darker aspects of its past. By doing so, the league can continue to grow, evolve, and provide the best possible experience for players and fans alike.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What was the punishment for the players involved in the Malice at the Palace?

Nine players were suspended for a total of 146 games, with Ron Artest (Metta Sandiford-Artest) receiving the longest suspension at 86 games.

2. How did Magic Johnson’s HIV announcement impact public perception of the disease?

Johnson’s decision to go public with his diagnosis helped raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, challenged stereotypes, and supported those affected by the disease through his openness and activism in the years that followed.

3. What were the consequences of the Donald Sterling scandal?

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a lifetime ban to Sterling, fined him $2.5 million, and forced him to sell the Los Angeles Clippers, marking the end of his controversial tenure as an NBA owner.

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