During a regular season game against the Rockets, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was involved in a scuffle with Houston's Kevin Kunnert. After the altercation, Laker forward Kermit Washington engaged Kunnert and the two had to be separated near midcourt by the referee. As Washington backed up, he could see Rockets guard Rudy Tomjanovich running towards him. Washington squared up the Rockets guard and landed a devastating punch that fractured Tomjanovich's face and nearly killed him.
Jabbar would later say that the punch sounded "like a melon that had been dropped on the floor." Tomjonavich would later say that he thought the scoreboard was dropped on him. In the aftermath, Washington was suspended for 60 days, the longest suspension for an on-court incident in NBA history at the time. Tomjonavich missed the remainder of the season and never returned to form. Washington was traded from team to team, became depressed, and eventually fell out of shape.