The Banana Bout
NBA fans were treated to some extra UFC pay per view action this Saturday evening as tempers boiled over in the 4th quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers’ home debut against the Houston Rockets. Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram engaged in one of the most intense fights the NBA has seen in recent memory. With 4:13 left in the game, Brandon Ingram was called for a defensive foul on James Harden which resulted in lngram pushing Harden out of the way and beginning to yell at the referee. Shortly after this initial altercation however, outside of the frame for ESPN viewers, the main event on the card began.
Rajon “Rondo” Rousey and Chris "CP3Piece" Paul threw punches at one another on the court as players from both teams rushed to stop the fight.
Welterweight boxer Floyd Mayweather watched in excitement from the sidelines.
As the frenzy and tempers intensified on the court and on social media, one big question permeated in the heads of viewers: What caused the fight between Rondo and Paul?
I present to you: Spit Gate. Let’s investigate this case before the court.
Judge Kiki VanDeWeghe presiding.
VenDeWeghe is the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations of the NBA, and is responsible for handing out suspensions to players. Since the NBA season has just begun, a fight of this severity has strong implications on both teams and their quest for a play-off spot. He will have a determining say on the amount of games missed by either party to the action. Conveniently, Mr. VanDeWeghe was in attendance at the Staples Center the night of the altercation and was given a first hand preview of the fight between the players.
In order to make the decision easier for the Vice President, we have decided to argue the case on behalf of both parties in the dispute.
The Plaintiff: Christopher Emmanuel Paul, Age 33
According to the plaintiff in the matter, Christopher Emmanuel Paul, the defendant Rajon Pierre Rondo was the instigator in the altercation. The conflict began on the evening of October 20th at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles with Rondo spitting at Paul. This act forced Paul to retaliate in self-defense by visibly poking Rajon Rondo in the eye. In the video below, Chris Paul appears to wipe off spit from his own face before poking Rondo in the face. In fact, if you read the lips of Paul in the alternate angle, you can form the sentence “Don’t ever spit on me,” before Paul lunges at Rondo.
The evidence however is quite unclear on this matter and this is a strong point of contention between the two parties.
To further support this side of the case, we have a statement from Paul’s own teammate Carmelo Anthony regarding the matter. According to Anthony in the post-game conference, Rondo’s spit at Paul was “Unacceptable. Unacceptable. That’s blatant disrespect.”
Should we consider Anthony a reliable witness in the case? Probably not. However, he does bring up the point that if Rondo did in fact begin the altercation by spitting in the face of an opponent, the severity of the punishment Chris Paul faces should be severely reduced since he was merely acting in response to an agitation by Rondo. The fact that Rondo was the first to throw a punch at Paul should further support the plaintiff's theory that the defendant is capable of doing something as "disrespectful" ,to use Anthony's words, as spitting in another player's face.
The representatives of Mr. Paul therefore submit to the court that little to no punishment should be given by Judge VanDeWeghe to their client since he was simply acting in self defence to a disrespectful act of spitting committed by the defendant, Rajon Rondo.
The Defendant: Rajon Pierre Rondo, Age 32
The defense, on the side of Rajon Emmanuel Rondo however argue that Rondo did not spit first or escalate any matter at hand. Rather, it was Chris Paul that started the fight by poking their client in the face. In fact, it is entirely possible that the spit did not come from Rondo, but rather that it came from Paul’s own teammate, Carmelo Anthony who can be seen next to Paul at the 0:23 mark in the video licking his lips shortly before the altercation begins.
According to reliable NBA insider Shams Charania the Lakers team is adamant that there was no spit towards Rockets guard Chris Paul in the altercation this evening.
The defence argues that only did Rajon Rondo not spit in the eyes of Mr Paul, but he also was attacked prior to his throwing of the initial punch by being poked in the eye. If it is determined by the court that Rajon Rondo did not in fact spit on Chris Paul, then the picture becomes clear. It was Chris Paul who instigated the altercation between the two parties and was responsible for the initial act. As a result, the case presented before Judge VanDeWeghe must be thrown out and the defendant must be deemed innocent in his involvement with suspensions only being awarded to the plaintiff.
Ultimately, it is unlikely that either side in the matter will get off scot free in one of the most televised cases presented before the NBA in recent years. However, it is important to consider both sides of the matter.
Did Rondo spit? Or was it Melo that spat? Did Chris Paul wrongly poke Rondo in the eye or was his eye gouging justified after receiving a mouthful of spit in his face? At the end of the day it is before VanDeWeghe to decide on these big questions of jurisprudence. All we can do is sit back and enjoy the circus.
Avel Ivanov is a columnist at The Bench. He can be reached on Twitter at @av3ll.