Punch Dunk Love

One of the greatest and most famous fights in the history of the NBA occurred on Nov. 9, 1984, when Larry Bird and Julius “Dr. J” Erving became overly physical with each other during an early season showdown.

It was a fight between one superstar on his way into the basketball spotlight, and another one on his way out. The reigning-champion Sixers had begun the season 4-0, and were looking to make an I’m-still-here statement to the younger, but equally talented Celtics (5-0). Bird, 27 years old at the time, already had an NBA Championship under his belt from the 1981 season, but would win his second later on that season, and add a third in 1986. Late in the third quarter of a game dominated by Larry Legend, Bird and Erving raised their fists and the referees blew their whistles to stop time.

The refs then stepped back to let the two NBA titans clash it out.

Erving threw the first punch, a left hook that Bird artfully ducked under, delivering a quick jab into Erving’s ribs in the process. Dr. J pushed Bird off and quickly swung again with his left, this time making some impact with Bird’s temple. A follow-up punch to the mouth sent Bird a few feet back, but gathering himself, he ducked a roundhouse, uppercutting the now-vulnerable Erving. As the two moved back into fighting position, the refs blew their whistles, signaling the end of the spar and announcing the return to play. Bloodied, the combatants were led back to their respective benches to serve their allotted penalty time as the Boston Garden crowd roared with primordial excitement.

Or at least that’s how Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat wishes it had all occurred.

Gortat seems to have found a fit in Washington after playing chunks of his career for the Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns. The 31-year-old has teamed with All-Star point guard John Wall to create a formidable pick-and-roll combination that helped the Wizards to their first-ever playoff sweep last night against the Bulls. Gortat averaged 12 points and 9 rebounds per game this season, and was a consistent defensive presence for the Wizards, starting all 82 games.

But Gortat is becoming a Washington fan-favorite perhaps even more so because of his colorful personality. In a league riddled with sexy, athletic freaks of nature, Gortat certainly looks the part, most closely resembling a Polish Abe Lincoln who decided to shave his head and play basketball. The 7-footer is refreshingly candid, and answers questions with a charm that could have only been imported.

Gortat was being asked by TruthAboutIt.net’s Kyle Weidie about new NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and some of the new policies and rules the league has made or is looking into. Asked for his insight, Gortat proposed this genius idea:

“I would say I would loosen up a little bit the rules about the fighting fines. That’s what I would loosen up. Because today you go to an ice hockey game, and the one thing they’re waiting for is a fight, you know what I’m saying? So if they could set it up something like that in the NBA – that if there are two guys and they have a problem, they could just separate everybody…and these two people that have problem, if they could fight…”

The idea, of course, is ridiculous, and would never happen. Clearly, Gortat knows that as well, and was likely just giving a humorous answer in response to Weidei’s inquiry. But think about some of the greatest scuffles, fights and brawls in NBA history – how many of those would you like to see played out?

Who wouldn’t have watched Michael Jordan have it out with Reggie Miller? Jordan, and probably every other NBA player in the 90s, certainly wanted to bust Reggie in the nose. Perhaps Ron Artest never charges into The Palace crowd in Detroit if he dukes it out with the Pistons’ Ben Wallace for a few minutes at center court. Wallace would have turned Artests’ face from convex to concave, but perhaps Artest never gets hit by a flying beverage in the first place if a satiated audience gets its fill of controlled mayhem. Food for thought…

P.S. – If anybody wants to check out how the Bird/Erving fight actually went down, it’s the first of the two links below. Highly recommend it, big-time cheap shots from Dr. J. Both players end up ejected.

For the record, Erving had six points, three rebounds and five assists before his ejection. Bird had 42 points, seven rebounds and three assists. In 30 minutes.





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