We discuss Kermit Washington’s infamous punch that severely injured Rudy Tomjanovich in 1977 and the NBA’s fighting culture of the time in the latest edition of Over and Back’s Basketball Mysteries of the 1970s.
We look at the evolution of the NBA from a rough-and-tumble game with lots of fouling and physical play in the 1950s into more of a finesse game, how early black players with often pigeonholed into limited enforcer-type roles, how fighting was often glamorized in the lower-profile ABA but demonized in the late 1970s NBA, how the racial dynamics involved affected fans’ views of fighting, famous stories of ABA and NBA fights (including fights involving Mel Daniels, Willis Reed, John Brisker, Cliff Hagan, Warren Jabali, and Wendell Ladner), an infamous Sports Illustrated profile (http://www.si.com/vault/1977/10/31/626402/nobody-but-nobody-is-going-to-hurt-my-teammates) just weeks before The Fight looking at NBA enforcers (featuring Washington, Maurice Lucas, Calvin Murphy, Dennis Awtrey, Bob Lanier and Darryl Dawkins), how Washington’s punch of Tomjanovich was portrayed in the media and became a national story, how race informed the response and possible punishment in that case, how The Punch hung over the heads of everyone involved for many years afterward.
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