For much of the late ’90s, the New York Knicks and Miami Heat had a fierce rivalry in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. While it produced some memorable fights such as the one involving former Charlotte Hornets teammates Larry Johnson (then with the Knicks) and Alonzo Mourning (then with the Heat), that donnybrook isn’t quite as notorious as the one where Heat power forward P.J. Brown did to Knicks point guard Charlie Ward what your average bad-guy wrestler would do to a hapless jobber.
The stage was set with under two minutes remaining in Game 5 of the 1997 Eastern Conference semifinals. With the Heat’s Tim Hardaway attempting a free throw, Brown and Ward were jockeying for rebound position when, almost out of nowhere, the much larger Brown flipped the former Heisman Trophy winner overhead and into a group of sideline photographers. Knicks forward John Wallace then charged at Brown in retaliation, triggering a minute-long brawl between players from both teams.
Interestingly, Wallace wasn’t suspended, but Brown was the only player to sit out two games — and rightfully so as he was the instigator of the Game 5 chaos. However, several Knicks, namely key players Ward, Johnson, Patrick Ewing, John Starks, and Allan Houston, were suspended one game each, and the fact they sat out either Game 6 or Game 7 helped the Heat come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series.