Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kent Benson have different versions of what led to Ugly Sucker Punch, Broken Hand and Recording Fine

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The 1977/78 NBA season got off to a wild start, as did Kent Benson’s professional basketball career. Benson, the first pick in the 1977 NBA draft from the Milwaukee Bucks, faced Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Los Angeles Lakers at the season opener and Benson’s NBA debut. The two players lasted two minutes after Abdul-Jabbar hit Benson with a right hook.


Benson saw stars and Abdul-Jabbar saw a doctor for a broken hand from the blow. Abdul-Jabbar was given a record fine. The former Lakers Center recently spoke about the incident, and it’s a different version from Benson’s.


Benson had been out of the league for two minutes and was in the middle of a controversy. Drafted the first overall winner from Indiana, the 6-foot-10, 235-pound Benson competed against one of the best in the league in Abdul-Jabbar. It was Benson’s first regular season game, and he played in front of his home crowd.


From the start, the two great men were physically with each other. There were some elbows as the two battled for position in the suit. Things escalated when Benson poked Abdul-Jabbar in the abdomen / groin area with his elbow. As the game went on, Abdul-Jabbar stepped aside to collect himself and fell over for a few seconds.


He returned to guard Benson, then rammed the Bucks newbie one punch in the right side of the head and knocked him to the ground. Abdul-Jabbar’s actions resulted in a record-breaking $ 5,000 fine and speech in tongues by then-NBA Commissioner Lawrence F. O’Brien.


“The fact that a single, rapid act of violence resulted in injuries to two players indicates the danger and recklessness of such an act,” O’Brien said in a statement to the New York Times. “Such behavior will not be tolerated and will be punished accordingly. Every player in the NBA knows that I am against fighting during the game, no matter what the provocation. I will use all my powers to prevent violence in the NBA. ”


The players’ union fought in vain against the historic fine.


“We are dissatisfied with fighting on the pitch and discussed it at our meetings,” said Larry Fleisher, the association’s attorney. “That’s not what the NBA is about. But offending a player with a $ 5,000 fine offends me as well. I don’t care how much he earns, that’s unbelievably good. ”


Abdul-Jabbar did not speak to reporters immediately after the incident. He did touch it recently, however, when he was a guest on former teammate Byron Scott’s podcast.


Scott brought up the incident.


“The Kent Benson incident where Kent Benson elbowed you, just an intentional elbow,” Scott said on his Away from dribbling Podcast. “Anyone can go to YouTube and watch it. He hit you in a great spot where you just bent down. The game goes on and you kind of gathered yourself, put yourself in the square and just said POW and knocked him out. ”


Abdul-Jabbar reluctantly spoke about it.


“I’m so sorry I did this,” he said when Scott told him Benson deserved it. “Broke my hand. (Benson’s elbow) was a cheap shot, a sneaky shot. He did this because his trainer, Don Nelson, told him to like beating me up if he was going to be successful. He just made one problem for himself. Every time I saw him after that, I made sure he knew that I know how to play. ”


Benson had a different take on the whole event. In a YouTube video published in 2014, he explained the situation and pointed a finger at Abdul-Jabbar as the instigator.


“I played the Los Angeles Lakers and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on my NBA debut,” said Benson. “We control the top and come down and Brian Winters shoots from the outside, misses him. I go up over Kareem, bounce off, and put the ball back in.


“On the way back to court, he knocked me with his elbow several times. I hit him up to his spot on the block where he could shoot his famous hooked shot. As he comes down he takes his elbow and presses it against my chest. We struggle for our position and I push him back. Nothing malicious, but I push him back.


“He’s doing a great deed, like he’s hurt. He leaned forward, somehow fell back 10 feet. You can see him looking to see if the officers are looking. I watch the ball come across the square because it’s behind me again. He takes a run and hits me right in the temple. Didn’t blow my mind, but it made me feel silly. I saw stars and birdies and everything else.


“He hit me so hard that he broke his hand. He was out in 21 games and at the time had the biggest find in NBA history. It gave me an opportunity to learn about forgiveness. I had forgiven him. It was hard to do without a doubt. ”


Either way, it was a black eye for the NBA – and one for Benson too.

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