Why Do Basketball Players Fight? (The Truth)

Why does it seem like fights and scuffles are common in basketball?

Are players in basketball just that violent?

Basketball players fight mainly due to retaliate. It’s a sport that involves trash talk, contacts, and occasionally hard fouls. So, it’s not surprising to see players fighting at all.

But in most professional leagues, fighting can result in technical fouls, ejections and even fines. So, let’s learn exactly what motivates players to fight.

Why do Basketball Players Fight?

Although basketball is technically a non-contact sport, there are still some physical contacts, although limited.

But when it gets serious, these contacts can turn into an all-out war on both teams. But what exactly starts these fights? What are the most common reasons for them?

Let’s dig into each one.

1. To retaliate

Basketball is a sport that involves limited contact. But contacts are usually forbidden and can be called fouls.

But every now and then, players can hold players a little bit in the guise of defense. But if these small contacts become more physical, players may then retaliate as a result.

So, when you see players fighting, it’s usually the climax of the tension between players. It’s just the natural progression.

Trash talks and small and celebratory taunts can also be triggers of fights. Since no one wants to back out, everyone will want to retaliate, which results in a fight.  

2. Because of a hard foul

Sometimes, a fight may break out suddenly. This is a more obvious case, especially when a player committed a hard foul. The referees can then determine if this was a flagrant foul or not.

Regardless if it’s a flagrant foul, no one would be safe after committing a hard foul. The opponent’s teammates will come after you, and there may even be a brawl.

This is why the consequences of a flagrant foul can be as simple as free throws to as severe as an ejection.

In the NBA, the players involved in a fight may even be suspended and fined, depending on the severity of it.

3. Because basketball is an emotional sport

Let’s face it; most sports involve human emotion in one way or another. Basketball isn’t an exception.

Most players don’t like losing, which is why their emotions may run high. And fights are most likely to break when the pressure is at its peak.

We can’t take the emotion out of basketball since the players are humans, and humans have emotions. But players just need more self-control so that fights won’t occur.

What Happens When Players Fight?

When players fight, their teammates may do nothing, break the fight up or worst – join the fight. If the fight grows, referees, coaches, staff, and security come in to stop the fight.

In professional games like the NBA, fights are likely to occur, so they have countermeasures put in place.

After the fight has been dissolved, the officials may decide who to eject. Then, the players may subsequently be suspended and fined depending on the severity of the fight.

Ultimately, nothing good comes out of fighting for both parties other than venting out their anger.

What Are the Penalties of Players Fighting?

In most professional sports, there are penalties for fights. In the NBA, they usually issue technical fouls when there are altercations.

But if the officials deem the fight too much, players may get kicked out of the game immediately.

Then, the players involved in a fight who received technical fouls will be fined not exceeding $50,000.

Most fines would only cost a minimum of $2,000 up to $5,000 each, which is a chump change for NBA players. Some would rather risk paying the fine than back out of a fight.

The Most Violent Fights in NBA History

The NBA has been around for 70+ years and has seen its fair share of fights. Some are just minor scuffles, but there have also been some intense brawls.

Let’s look back at the most violent fights in NBA history:

1. Malice at the Palace

When it comes to fights in the NBA, Ron Artest was a part of many of them.

But nothing was more violent in the league’s history than in the 2004 matchup between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers.

It all started when Ben Wallace pushed Ron Artest after he was fouled a bit hard. After tensions came down, Ron Artest decided to rest on the scorer’s table. But while doing so, a fan threw a cup at him.

What ensued next was chaos as he, along with two of his teammates, rushed to the fans to knock down those that threw the cup.

Ron Artest was suspended for the rest of the season, with his teammates also receiving suspensions.

To this day, this is still the most brutal fight in NBA history.

2. Denver Nuggets vs. New York Knicks

This fight in 2006 was spearheaded by the two teams but Carmelo Anthony’s cheap shot was what stole the fight.

He was then suspended for 15 games along with other players. Both teams were fined $500,000 as well.

3. Rondo vs. Paul

Although this fight can’t compare with the old ones, it deserves a mention since it happened recently.

In 2018, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo reached the peak of their feud as they dished it out on the court.

They then got ejected from the game along with Brandon Ingram. What started it was Ingram pushing Harden.

Chris Paul and Rondo then exchanged some words as Paul poked Rondo’s eyes, and Rondo punched back. Then, Ingram threw a punch at Paul as well as the fight was broken off.

Are NBA Players More Aggressive Now Than Ever?

In each NBA season, you can expect to see scuffles and minor fights, which is normal.

But what’s noticeable is that the players seem to have become more “soft” as old heads call it.

Back then, players would dish it all out on the court as they didn’t hold back.

But now, players are becoming smart and not letting their emotions get the best of them.

Either because of the fines and suspensions that will follow or because they don’t want to dirty their image, there are many more things to worry about now.

Plus, there are more global viewers of the NBA now than ever, so players are strongly discouraged from fighting by the league.


Like in every sport, especially those involving contact, there would always be fights. Though in recent years, professional basketball leagues have become stricter to avoid disasters like the Malice in Palace.

But simple trash talks and scuffles aren’t too bad as it means that the players are competitive. We’d rather have some friendly rivalries than nothing at all.

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