Basketball: The Punch
It was a punch that changed the rules of the NBA. As an on court fight between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets was taking place, Laker Kermit Washington turned to see Rocket Rudy Tomjanovich running towards him. He reacted by swinging a powerful roundhouse punch that hit Tomjanovich with so much force that when he awoke he thought that the scoreboard had fallen on him.
Aftermath: The punch fractured his face Tomjanovich’s face about one-third of an inch (8 mm) away from his skull, leaving Tomjanovich unconscious and bleeding profusely in the middle of the court. The silence that followed was described by one player as, “the loudest silence you have ever heard.” Tomjanovich nearly died from the injury, the punch separated the bone structure of his face from his skull and caused blood and spinal fluid to leak into his skull capsule.
Washington’s suspension of 60 days (26 games) was the longest suspension ever handed out in the NBA for an on-court incident. In a civil action by Tomjanovich against the Los Angeles Lakers, the court found in favor Tomjanovich awarding him $3.2 million dollars. Washington was traded to the Celtics while still on suspension, as the management felt that to keep him would amount to a “public relations disaster”.