The Greatest Brawls in NBA Playoffs History

John Starks, Bill Laimbeer and Chocolate Thunder threw down with any and everybody.




The NBA Playoffs have been going on for about two weeks now and we've noticed something: Today's NBA is softer than baby powder. There are stars like LeBron James and Blake Griffin flopping left and right, but we're not blaming them. We blame the league's front office and officials for rewarding that style of play. Everything is a foul and hard playoff fouls are now flagrants. The L has even gone as far as taking legal action on YouTube accounts that posted old-school fights. They took down memorable ones too, like Ralph Sampson hooking off on Jerry Sichting in the '86 Finals or when Cedric Maxwell almost got at a Sixers fan during Game 6 of the '81 Eastern Conference Finals.

All in all, we were still able to find some goodies like when Tree Rollins tried to eat Danny Ainge and when Bill Laimbeer took on Larry Bird and Robert Parish by his lonesome. So, take a trip down memory lane with us and check out the Greatest Brawls in NBA Playoffs History (that we could find).

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14. John Starks vs. the Bulls

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Date: 5/29/1993
Teams: New York Knicks vs. Chicago Bulls
Round: Game 3, Eastern Conference Finals
Winner: The Bulls
John Starks is an All-Star at doing dumb shit like getting the opposing team's best player amped. He did it with Reggie Miller and he did it with Michael Jordan. Against the Bulls, he first got into it with Pippen and then went at Jordan a few times until the refs had enough and ejected him. Starks had already picked up a tech for kicking the ball in the stands after he turned the ball over. The Knicks lost the game and eventually the series, even though they had a 2-0 lead.

13. John Stockton vs. David Robinson

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Date: 4/28/1994
Teams: San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz
Round: Game 1, Western Conference Quarterfinals
Winner: John Stockton
John Stockton was one of the dirtiest players in NBA history. How dirty? So dirty that 7'1" U.S. Naval Academy graduate David Robinson was too shook to fight Stockton, who stood a full foot shorter. OK, so maybe Robinson's Christian background had something to do with the fact that he stayed on the ground when Stockton tossed him to the floor. But maybe not.

12. John Starks vs. Reggie Miller

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Date: 5/4/1993
Teams: New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers
Round: Game 3, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Winner: Reggie Miller
Reggie Miller ushered in the era of flops. He was the master of getting under his opponents' skin and coaxing them into making irrational decisions based on emotion. Earlier during the '93 season, Michael Jordan was suspended for a game because of a punch he threw at Miller. But later that season, John Starks would become his favorite target. Starks felt Reggie was throwing elbows all game and he wasn't having it. He purposely sought Miller out and head-butted him for it. Starks was ejected, the Knicks lost the game (but won the series, 3-1) and John was fined $5,000.

11. Ralph Sampson vs. Jerry Sichting

10. Robert Horry vs. Steve Nash

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Date: 5/14/2007
Teams: San Antonio Spurs vs. Phoenix Suns
Round: Game 4, Western Conference Semifinals
Winner: The Spurs
This series was the Suns' last chance at making folks believe their style of basketball would translate into a title. Robert Horry was having none of it. The grizzled vet checked Steve Nash into the scorer's table as if they were in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Horry and Raja Bell tried to grab each other, but the scuffle was diffused quickly. Boris Diaw and Amar'e took only a few steps off the bench to tend to Nash and were still suspended a game each. Robert Horry was suspended for two games and the Spurs went on the win the series in six games. The next year, Steve Kerr traded Shawn Marion for Shaq and spelled the end of "Seven Seconds or Less" in the desert.

9. Larry Johnson vs. Alonzo Mourning

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Date: 4/13/1998
Teams: Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks
Round: Game 4, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Winner: The Fans
LJ and Alonzo never got along. The two had been beefing since the Hornets drafted Alonzo Mourning with the second pick in the 1992 Draft. It started when 'Zo didn't like a contract offer from the Hornets, so he was dealt to the Heat. Johnson always held that against Alonzo, so when Larry became a Knick, it created the perfect storm.

The tension reached a climax when the two met in the 1998 playoffs. With literally seconds left in the fourth quarter, Mourning didn't like how physical Johnson was getting for a board and took a swing at him. The two continued to fight the air until Jeff Van Gundy came in to save the day. Larry and Alonzo were each suspended for two games and fined a combined $32,500. The only winners of this fight were the fans.

8. Bill Laimbeer vs the Celtics

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Date: 5/23/1987 & 5/26/1987
Teams: Detroit Pistons vs. Boston Celtics
Round: Game 3 and Game 5, Conference Finals
Winner: The Celtics
Everyone hates Bill Laimbeer. During Game 3 of the '87 Eastern Conference Finals, Laimbeer put Larry Bird into a sleeper hold while Bird was attempting a layup. A flagrant foul was called and Bill was fined $5,000.

In Game 5, Robert Parish was fed up with Bill's antics and punched him three times in the head after Laimbeer came down with a rebound right in front of an official. At the time, only a foul was called on the Big Chief, but upon further review after the game, the league suspended Parish for Game 6. The Pistons lost in seven games.

7. Akeem Olajuwon vs. Mitch Kupchak

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Date: 5/21/1986
Teams: Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Round: Game 5, Western Conference Finals
Winner: Earl Strom (referee)
The Lakers were the reigning NBA champs; the Rockets were the young guns with the Twin Towers, Ralph Sampson and Akeem Olajuwon, gunning for that No. 1 spot. Houston was up in the series 3-1, and about to send the Lakers packing on their home court, when Mitch Kupchak (as in current Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak) objected to a swipe from Olajuwon and hit The Dream with an arm check. Olajuwon most definitely objected to the arm check, and swung on Kupchak with the quickness, only to have referee Earl Strom put his life on the line to break things up. If Strom was six inches taller, the Rockets likely don't win their back-to-back titles in the '90s because Olajuwon would've been locked up on an involuntary manslaughter charge.

6. Kevin McHale vs. Kurt Rambis

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Date: 6/6/1984
Teams: Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Round: Game 4, NBA Finals
Winner: Kevin McHale
This is the most famous takedown in NBA history. Kevin McHale straight clotheslined Kurt Rambis which led to the clearing of benches. This was a mere personal foul in the '80s but surely would've gotten someone tossed in today's NBA. No one was suspended or fined. That's vintage basketball, folks. Boston won the game and the series in seven.

5. P.J. Brown vs. Charlie Ward

4. Derek Harper vs. Jo Jo English

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Date: 5/13/1994
Teams: New York Knicks vs. Chicago Bulls
Round: Game 3, Eastern Conference Semifinals
Winner: David Stern
The brawl broke out only a few rows from Commissioner Stern, which led to the "Leave the Bench" rule. Before this fight, players who left the bench were fined. The next season (1994-1995), players who left the bench were automatically suspended for one game. Derek Harper took Jo Jo English uptown and slammed him on his back into the front row. Harper was suspended for two games and Jo Jo was out for one. Each player was fined $20,000. No more legal bench-clearing brawls after this one.

3. Tree Rollins vs. Danny Ainge

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Date: 4/24/1983
Teams: Atlanta Hawks vs. Boston Celtics
Round: Game 3, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Winner: Tree Rollins
In retaliation for being called a sissy, Tree Rollins elbowed Danny Ainge in the face. Never one to back down, Ainge tackled Rollins to the ground and the two began to wrestle. Tree then bit Ainge's middle finger requiring a couple stitches. The crazy part? Ainge was ejected and not Tree. The Celtics went on to win the series, 2-1. Yeah, you read that right, the top two teams in each conference had first round byes in those days.

2. Grant Long vs. Duane Ferrell

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Date: 4/30/1994
Teams: Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Heat
Round: Game 2, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Winner: Grant Long
You know you've choked a man good when the gum flies out of his mouth. The eighth seeded Heat were appearing in the Playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and coming off the first postseason win in franchise history. Not feeling the upstart Heat beating them again on their own court, the Hawks got chippy, and when Atlanta's Duane Ferrell put his finger in Miami's Grant Long's face after a dunk, things got really chippy. Long calmly removed his goggles and put both hands on Ferrell's neck, resulting in the aforementioned gum expulsion. Both benches cleared, with Miami's Keith Askins and Atlanta's Doug Edwards landing punches (on each other). Long and Askins were suspended for Game 3; Atlanta won the series in five games.

1. Maurice Lucas vs. Darryl Dawkins

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Date: 5/26/1977
Teams: Portland Trailblazers vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Round: Game 2, NBA Finals
Winner: Maurice Lucas
This was a bout between two Gs. Darryl Dawkins and Mo Lucas (RIP) were known to throw the hands every once in awhile. Some might remember Mo as the dude in White Men Can't Jump that promised to shoot everybody after Sidney and Billy hustled him. Dawkins and Bob Gross battled for a rebound and had some words. Gross must've said the magic words to Dawkins, so Darryl popped him, but hit his own teammate, Doug Collins, instead. Mo slapped Darryl in the back of the head and challenged him to shoot the one. This led to fans trying to get on the floor to get in the action and players on both teams had shoving matches. Both Lucas and Dawkins were ejected and Dawkins was fined $2,500. No suspensions. The Blazers lost the game, but went on to win the series in six games.

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