A long, long time ago, back when cavemen ruled the roost, two cavemen got angry with each other, probably over a cavewoman (and that cavewoman probably had more bodily hair than George "The Animal" Steele). One of the two cavemen clenched his hand into a ball and popped the other caveman in the face with it. And it hurt. Badly.
VOILA! The punch was born!
Behind the wheel and fire, the closed fist punch might be the third most important discovery of those Neanderthal days, as since then, we've used our fists to decide many a discrepancy, some sanctioned and most unsanctioned. For centuries, men and women, once they've reached a certain boiling point, have intrinsically and subconsciously known that when it's "go time," that means the clenched-up balls of fury come out and begin a-clobberin'!
Blake Griffin knew this when his buddy who doubles as the Los Angeles Clippers assistant equipment manager said whatever it was that set him off last week and Blake decided to turn the poor bastard's face into chopped meat. Griffin will likely face some sort of suspension once his broken hand heals, but certainly the physical damage has been done. Blake Griffin, broken hand. Equipment dude, swollen face.
It immediately brought to mind several other sports incidents where fisticuffs ruled the day, and I don't mean sanctioned fisticuffs as in a boxing or MMA fight, or even a fight in a hockey game where the punishment is merely a few minutes in the penalty box. I'm talking punches thrown completely outside the natural habitat of clenched-fist pugilism, resulting in legendary moments.
So here are ten punches that immediately came to mind.....
10. Carmelo Anthony punches and runs away
This, somewhat ironically, took place back when Melo was on the Nuggets against the team that would eventually give him hundreds of million of dollars to play in zero significant postseason basketball games, the New York Knicks. Watch for Carmelo around the 0:17 mark throwing a punch at Jared Jeffries and then running away like a little bitch. It's a miracle that J.R. Smith was on this court, too, and somehow this didn't escalate any further...
9. Jeremy Hill sucker punches fellow LSU student
Before he was only the third most deplorable human being on his team as a Cincinnati Bengal (what up, Pac Man and Vontaze?), running back Jeremy Hill played for the LSU Tigers, and whoa, baby, did he have some baggage! Not only was there the alleged sexual assault of a minor, but there was this little video in which Hill blasts some unsuspecting bro with a sucker haymaker....
8. Billy Martin punches out a marshmallow salesman
This is the only punch on the list that is not documented on YouTube, but the story is hilarious. Martin, the former Yankee player and manager, had a legendarily volatile temper. This anecdote is one for the ages, courtesy of Martin's Wikipedia page:
After the 1979 season, Martin got into a fight with marshmallow salesman Joseph Cooper at a hotel in Minneapolis. According to Cooper, the fight started over a dispute on who should be "Manager of the Year", with Cooper saying Dick Williams or Earl Weaver. Martin reportedly egged Cooper on, offering a $500 bet and later sucker punching Cooper when he agreed. Steinbrenner fired him after that and replaced him with Dick Howser for the 1980 season.
I mean, how amazing is that story? A manager dishing out a sucker punch because a marshmallow salesman thinks someone else deserves Manager of the Year? This needs its own "30 for 30." Also, there's such a thing as a marshmallow salesman? I spent 15 years in telecom sales. If I'd known I could've sold marshmallows instead, I'd have quit telecom on the spot.
7. Woody Hayes punches Charlie Bauman
This video is transfixing on so many levels. Yes, it shows one of the most famous and most surreal punches in sports history, former Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes smacking a Clemson player in the throat for what appears to be no reason. But the broadcast is fairly remarkable as well. If you watch the entire six minutes, play-by-play Keith Jackson and the color guy (I think it's former Notre Dame head coach Ara Parseghian) have no clue that Hayes ever threw the punch, even after multiple replays. (Where the hell was their producer?) Also, Woody Hayes picks up a 15-yard penalty for basically being a dick, and that ends the game and any chance his team has of winning. Hayes would have been skewered for days on sports talk radio if this happened in 2016...
6. BONUS WOODY HAYES! Hayes punches cameraman
Again, Woody Hayes would have been skewered for days on sports talk radio if THIS happened in 2016....
5. Jermaine O'Neal punches out frightened fan in "Malice at the Palace"
There were several punches thrown in the infamous "Malice at the Palace" brawl back in 2004, but this was the one that was most cringeworthy — Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal decking some poor bastard in a Pistons jersey. I'm guessing that chubby little dude regrets walking inside the court boundaries...
4. Nolan Ryan headlock punches Robin Ventura
This is the only one on the list that doesn't qualify as a "sucker punch." This one is as stand-up as a punch gets. Actually, it's a series of punches. Robin Ventura runs out to the mound to take on Nolan Ryan after a beanball, and quite honestly, Ventura would've been safer wearing a jacket made of red meat and running directly at a pack of rabid coyotes. Ryan won this one in a TKO....
3. Brittney Griner smacks Jordan Barncastle
I'll give Jordan Barncastle credit. She is by far the happiest person I've ever seen after having her septum deviated by a roundhouse right hand. She's practically giggling on the sidelines with that huge ball of cotton holding her face together by the nostril...
2. Buddy Ryan punches Kevin Gilbride
The 1993 Oilers in one Vine. The end...
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1. Kermit Washington, The Punch
If you want to see one man's NBA career and reputation ruined in three bad seconds, well, here you go. Kermit Washington was, by all accounts, a sweetheart of a guy who had a bad night here. All I can think about when I see this is John Feinstein's book The Punch, which documents the night Washington nearly knocked Rudy Tomjanovich's head from his torso and the years after, which defined both men for a long time, Washington probably still to this day. The book's description of Rudy T's end of the punch is graphic, even mentioning that, right after being hit, Rudy could taste his spinal fluid so he knew something was wrong. Ugh...
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