Before the 2004 brawl between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, a fight ensued at The Palace of Auburn Hills in 1990. This time, it was between the Pistons and the Philadelphia 76ers, particularly Bill Laimbeer and Charles Barkley. With 15 seconds left and the game decided in favor of the 76ers, the two hefty big men went at it after Laimbeer nudged the ball at 76ers' forward Rick Mahorn's face. In response to Laimbeer's antics, Barkely charged at the Pistons center, and the two exchanged blows.
We can accept that the incident between Laimbeer and Mahorn was the seed of the brawl. However, a report dated April 20, 1990, or the day after the incident, reveals the real episode that sparked the original Malice at the Palace. The report revealed that Barkley sent a little note to Laimbeer via a ball boy before tip-off.
"Philadelphia forward Charles Barkley sent Detroit center Bill Laimbeer a note prior to the game which ended in their exchanging punches. Several sportswriters witnessed Barkley writing a two-word note, the second word of which was 'You.' He addressed it to Laimbeer, signed it 'Charles', and had a ball-boy run it over to the locker room," UPI archives.
From the looks of it, Laimbeer was trying his best to contain his anger throughout the entire game. But being the "Bad Boy" that he is, Laimbeer can only suppress it for so long. Perhaps nudging the ball at Mahorn's face was his way of venting out his irritation. Not only was Barkley's note plaguing his mind, but the Pistons weren't performing up to par at that point, having split the last 10 games, 5-5. But Laimbeer embraced the little scuffle by viewing it as a motivating factor as they headed towards the playoffs.
"Our team has been kind of lackadaisical (sic) lately," Laimbeer said then. 'We needed something like this to get us going. I think this will be the case."
Laimbeer was right, and the Pistons went on to win the last two regular-season games. In the postseason, they powered through the Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, and the Portland Trailblazers to win their second straight NBA Championship.