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Fightin’ Words: That Little Pacers-Warriors’ Scrap Was A Scuffle, Not A Brawl

NBA scuffles, fights, brawls—however you choose to phrase each particular incident— aren’t as popping as they used to be.

NBA scuffles, fights, brawls—however you choose to phrase each particular incident— aren’t as popping as they used to be. Nobody really gets into it anymore. The money, fame and jailhouse rules of passivity have made fighting almost obsolete. You’re not going to see a player get his face rearranged like Kermit Washington did Rudy Tomjanovich back in the day. That’s why we get so hype now when cats start pushing and shoving like they’re in a pick-up game at the Rucker.

Last night’s riff between the Pacers and Warriors began as a “shoving match,” and elevated to a “hit-and-run” by David Lee, who couldn’t be found on the screen after he threw a shoulder at Hibbert and dipped off shouting. When Steph Curry got involved, it rose to the level of a “fight” because he got swatted around like a pesky fly being slapped at by Big Foot. That sparked Tristan Thompson, Paul George and a slew of others to start shoving. It did filter into the stands a bit, but the refs got the situation under control quickly, with just one ejection. So, it never got to the level of a “brawl” or “melee”.

It was classic, though. Reminded me of the ’98 playoffs, and Jeff Van Gundy at the bottom of the pile, hanging on to Alonzo Mourning’s leg for dear life, and Mourning trying to shake Van Gundy off like he would an attack poodle.

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You have to give Steph his propers, though. He knew he had to save face after getting tossed by Hibbs with one arm and cast aside like “Sit yo’ lil’ ass down before I stomp you.”


Hibbert’s quote afterward, via the Associated Press, was pure comedy: “Seriously, I didn’t even feel him. I saw some light-skinned guy. I don’t know if it was Klay Thompson or Steph Curry, I just knew there was a light-skinned guy by me.”


In the end, it was actually a historically funny, one-sided confrontation more than anything. Sort of like if Manute Bol scrapped with Muggsy Bogues back in the brolic ’90s.

But ain’t nothing funny about a brawl, so stop calling it that. We know, however, that some of y’all wouldn’t/couldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight, so you might see a scuffle and call it a brawl. That’s why we’re here.

This is our list of the proper terms used to describe on-court confrontations and their degrees of intensity, from least to greatest.


Thug Posturing : When two players stand chest-to-chest and talk a lot of junk, all the while waiting for reinforcements or stripes to come break it up. Usually the adversaries get increasingly animated, gyrating and shouting threats while being “restrained” behind a wall of multiple players and coaches.

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Shoving Match or Scuffle: Players get into it after a hard foul or a sustained period of popping ish. They usually become entangled in some way, start shoving a bit and talking reckless, spitting empty threats. If the words “pop the trunk” are uttered, then you really know that absolutely nothing serious is going down.


Hit-and-run or “The B!tch Move”: What Carmelo Anthony did to Mardy Collins in that Knicks-Nuggets brawl at the Garden, or when he bitch-slapped Spencer Hawes the other night. In this scenario, the player that delivers the cheap shot usually falls back and lets the “team enforcer” finish the fisticuffs. In rare cases, the player that was sucker-punked also does the running, like when Skip To My Lou sonned Eddie House, almost knocking his headband off, and a shocked House ran to the refs for relief before doing some thug posturing.

Legit Fights: The term fight can’t be used unless something is getting hit other than thin air. That’s when cats really get to scrappin’. Real live blows are thrown. Dust Ups like Dr. J vs. Larry Bird,Jordan vs. Reggie Miller, and Chris Childs vs. Kobe are the type of memories that you light one up and kick it about.

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Brawl: Knicks-Nuggets was a good one. Nate Robinson and JR Smith body slammed each other into the stands and that sparked several different fights. In a brawl, the benches have to clear and at least two other major side confrontations must pop off. A spill into the stands is on the table, but the refs usually get control without much collateral damage.

Melee: A brawl that veers out of control. You most frequently find them at soccer games. They usually involves two or three separate fights, lengthy delays, multiple game suspensions, frightened fans, and public censuring. Nothing will ever top The Malice in the Palace. Players running into the stands throwing bolos, people getting stomped, fans getting two-pieced; it was the NBA’s greatest street brawl, and the end of an era.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The Deputy Editor and Senior Writer is in his 23rd year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, magazines and national TV.

His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.