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So okay - what might have happened last night if Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier had not made such a determined effort to halt Marcus Smart's aggressive advance on Cleveland's J. R. Smith? In the extreme, we may have seen a repeat of The Punch - the incident where Kermit Washington leveled Rudy Tomjanovich, breaking his face and fracturing his skull. I am far from exaggerating here.

Kermit Washington

We are dealing with elite athletes here - some of whom are physically powerful. Marcus Smart has that kind of physical power. The Punch took place on December 9, 1977 in a game featuring the Lakers against the Rockets (per Wikipedia):

(Kermit) Washington saw Tomjanovich running toward the altercation. Not knowing that he intended to break up the fight, Washington hit (Rudy) Tomjanovich with a roundhouse punch. The blow, which took Tomjanovich by surprise, fractured his face about one-third of an inch (8 mm) away from his skull and left Tomjanovich unconscious in a pool of blood in the middle of the arena. Abdul-Jabbar likened the sound of the punch to a melon being dropped onto concrete

Washington was suspended for 26 games. Rudy T. was sidelined for five months, and his injuries at the time were life-threatening. Kermit was recently sentenced to six years in prison on theft by fraud charges (per NYDailyNews.com's Evan Grossman):

The man responsible for the most infamous sucker punch in sports history is headed to jail for treating donors of his fake charity like suckers.

Former NBA player Kermit Washington, who broke Rudy Tomjanovich’s face during a 1977 brawl, was sentenced to six years in prison without parole in Kansas City for stealing money from a fraudulent charity he ran, according to the Kansas City Star.


Washington actually became a member of the Celtics via trade after the infamous incident, and he was well liked and respected by virtually everyone connected with the team, including Red Auerbach and Dave Cowens. Jerry West, Kermit's Lakers coach at the time, had wanted to retain him in Los Angeles. Even Boston columnist Bob Ryan grew to like and respect Kermit. One has to ask if the punching incident grew to be such a negative force in Washington's life that it helped to derail that same life.


Re-watching the Smart-Smith fracas, it is obvious that J. R. is retreating and Marcus is on a mission to destroy him. No middle measures would have stopped him. An absolute take-down was the only solution, and Tayson Tatum, aided by Terry Rozier, did it beautifully. Had that not happened, there is little question that Smart would have bulldozed his way to Smith and golfed him. To what end? Certainly a suspension for Marcus. Possibly a serious injury to J. R. (I doubt to Smart). Might it have eventually ended Marcus' Celtics career? We will never know because it was stopped quickly. Nice job, Jayson and T-Ro!

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via LA Times

Tom Lane 10/07/2018 11:46:00 AM Edit
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