Jalen Rose explained it best - 99% of NBA players have no intention/desire to fight, and if there is a scuffle, it's a "HOLD ME BACK!!" kind of a fight. But throwing a punch at Kendrick Perkins in the middle of the game, that takes courage (or a death wish). He will retaliate.
It's not as if Perkins was a player with aggression issues. He didn't just go out there to pick a fight. Perk was there to rebound, screen, and make sure people know if they touch one of his guys, there will be consequences. His job description also included agitating the opposing team's star player.
For example, I knew when Doc, when we were going over scouting reports, when we used to play Orlando Magic and Doc used to say, his message used to be like: 'Hey Perk' and he'd say it aggressive 'you got Dwight Howard, NO HELP. And you know what to do.' So it was like, OK, cool.
Kendrick Perkins, Fair Game
Perkins said he knew that sometimes the coach was putting him in just to touch up the star player. No direct instructions, it was apparent. Go out there and test his nerves and composure. One of those times, the mark was Kobe Bryant. You don't need to be a biologist to know not to mess with snakes.
Was it smart to agitate a man that thrives on conflict? Probably not. But that's what Kendrick was there for - get under people's skin. His fouls were expendable. (It seems Perkins has the same role in media today) Perk did share what was said in the scuffle.
It was like 'Kobe, really, stop it. This is a problem you really don't want.' He was like 'Nah, it's all in the game.' I was like 'Yeah, I know. But chill.'
Perkins explained he has three boys at home watching him, and his mentality is he can't let them see anyone push him around. That's the example of the old-school mentality we don't really have in the league as much. No AAU, shooting coaches and careers mapped out at age 13. These players had to fight for everything they got, and to them, every game is a fight to stay in the league.
Can't say it was better, but I can see where they are coming from.