The sport, unfortunately, had been belching the residue of its shortsighted money-grabbing for the better part of a decade. People I have known for many years who were at The Palace of Auburb Hills that night spoke of the anger in the air, palpable and ugly, a gladitorial ambience that over the years had become pervasive in too many NBA arenas. Obviously, this was partly attributable to to the intensity between two physical rivals, but it was more a by-product of a regrettable marketing scheme to create an in-your-face product that was edgy enough to resonate with the young and rebellious, those who would buy the jerseys, play the video games, create the buzz.

However, the fans paying a king’s ransom for the expensive seats were much less forgiving, more easily antagonized upon the sounding of those deep-rooted racial alarms. Drunk or not, too many basketball fans had reached the point where they objectified the players, could not related to them as human beings, or see beyond societal stereotypes and flimsily disguised racial codes. If the imagery of large black men beating on defenseless white fans was alarming, the too-widely accepted pastime of affluent whites feeling empowered to verbally abuse half-dressed, sweaty black men should have enoked even more discomfort and disturbing American historical chapters.

The irony was that, the more the fans shelled out for their seats, the closer they got to the action —- but the closer they got, the wider the gulf between them and players seemed to grow. The arguments over which side of the basketball divide was more to blame could be carried on ad infinitum, but, when all was said and done, the sad spectacle revealed more about how American big business operated, more about profiteering than it did about punches, more about how gluttonous corporations had steered the sport off course and over time created a poweder keg ready to blow on a short racial fuse.

– From Harvey Araton’s ‘Crashing The Borders : How Basketball Won The World and Lost Its Soul At Home’ (Free Press).

1) Howard Bryant’s ‘Juicing The Game : Drugs, Power And The Fight For The Soul Of Major League Baseball’ (Viking).