The Boston Celtics were looking to take out the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of the 1986 NBA Finals. Instead, they found themselves in a fight – literally, a fight. Boston’s 6-foot-1 playmaker Jerry Sichting entered the game with Houston’s 7-foot-4 center Ralph Sampson, Sampson throwing a few punches and earning a knockout.
The game has gotten ugly and out of control. More than 30 years later, the brawl is still talking about her as Sichting joked that it was her 15 minutes of fame.
Jerry Sichting and Ralph Sampson went there in the 1986 NBA Finals
It all seemed to start when Sichting and Sampson collided in the second quarter of Game 5 of the 1986 NBA Finals. After that, Sichting got caught in a low post lag and had to keep Sampson, which is 15 inches taller. Sichting didn’t back down and apparently frustrated Sampson, who threw one punch and then added another for good measure.
Bill Walton knocked out Sampson as the benches cleared. Boston’s Dennis Johnson looked to have the worst of it all as he walked to the bench with a cut above his eye.
Although TV commentators initially reported that Sampson and Sichting had been kicked out, only Sampson was kicked out. The fight seemed to set off the Houston crowd and the players are feeding off it.
Houston, on the verge of elimination, rebounded with a 111-96 victory that set up Game 6 in Boston.
“We lost our temper,” Bird said after the game, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We collapsed and we collapsed. It was one of those games when they got up, we kind of said, “Shit with that”, and now we have to come back to the next game. “
Jerry Sichting reflects on “my 15 minutes of fame”
In June 2020, Sichting reflected on the brawl in a Boston Herald article. He said the fight is brought up from time to time. He joked that the fight was what he was remembered.
“It was my 15 minutes of fame,” he joked. “I still hear about it from time to time. Sadly, I didn’t hit a final 3 winners like (John) Paxson and (Steve) Kerr did for the Bulls, so I guess I remember that more.
He is also remembered for tearing Sampson apart for his punching ability.
“I don’t know why he hit me,” he told the LA Times post-game. “What could I do? I threw a few elbows, then he hit everyone.
“My little boy hits harder than that, and he’s 3 years old. I couldn’t tell if it was a punch or a mosquito. After he nudged me earlier, I said I’d get him for that.
The Celtics closed the series with a victory in Game 6 in Boston.
Sichting offered his version of the fight 34 years later
There had been a lot of different opinions on how the fight had started. Sichting offered his version of the brawl 34 years later after reviewing the video.
“I watched the replay, and what the replay shows is that your memory is not that good,” he told the Boston Herald. “It wasn’t really a quick break that I thought it was. But I tried to block it, and, you know, the big ones don’t like the little ones that try to block them sometimes.
“So he hit me with a forearm in the back, and the ref called a foul, so I kind of turned around and came back to him, like, what are you doing ? I had my hands in the air, and he swayed from afar. Thank goodness I wasn’t that close to him, but he hit me hard and that’s what started it all.
Former teammate Danny Ainge, a former goalkeeper known for frustrating opponents with his pesky game, said he used to be blamed for the fight.
“People are still talking about it, I guess,” Ainge told the Boston Herald. “I don’t remember much. I remember everyone thought it was me who had fought with Sampson. I’m like ‘No, no, no, no, no. It was Sichting. Jerry was also a jerk. He wasn’t running away from anyone.
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