The punch had already been thrown, the fight broken up. Doug Christie was on one end of the floor shooting jumpers by himself when it was announced that he and Rick Fox had been ejected. Christie began to run back to the tunnel of the Staples Center when Bobby Jackson stopped him and told him to be careful because he saw Fox sprinting toward the locker room. Fox was looking for him. Christie slowed to a light jog so he could be more aware of his surroundings. That may not have prevented a cup of whiskey from pelting him in the face at the hands of a Los Angeles Lakers fan, but it did prepare him for what was coming at him at the entrance to the tunnel - Fox was rounding the corner and running right at him ready for a rematch.
Just moments before this, Christie had admittedly flopped while defending Fox. After a foul was called on Fox, he looked down at Christie and while he was on the ground threw the ball at him.
"I'm a kid from inner city Seattle and there's just things that you don't do and that's one of them," Christie said.
Christie got up and threw the ball back at Fox in one motion. As soon as that happened Fox pushed his hand into Christie's face. "That's something else that you don't do," said Christie, who proceeded to land an uppercut to Fox's chin with his off-hand.
Entering the tunnel after wiping the whiskey off his face he saw Fox running right at him.
"I'm thinking to myself, man this is some Hollywood s*** right here," Christie said.
Christie laughs as he remembers Fox doing a "jump karate kick" into him. The two went at it again for a moment and Christie said he got in a few more blows after he had spun Fox around and moved him up against the bleachers. Christie's teammate Lawrence Funderburke came up from behind him, wrapped him in a bear hug and picked him up to walk him back to the locker room. Soon, loud thuds were heard coming down the hall as someone with large basketball shoes was sprinting toward the action. It was Shaquille O'Neal. Christie said he forced Funderburke to let him go.
"I just kind of stood there. I'm thinking, s***, Shaq is huge man. I'm going to have to go for it," he said.
But as O'Neal ran by, he just looked at Christie and kept going. The melee was over after some exchange of words in the tunnel.
This was nearly 15 years ago in a preseason game between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers. It's one of the more memorable moments in Kings history for fans given the heated rivalry between the two teams at the time (small market vs. big market, Northern California vs. Southern California). It also just so happened to be the best squad the Kings organization has ever assembled.
Christie said he doesn't condone fighting, but that sometimes there is an edginess NBA players must have. Jackson, who had Christie's back and warned him about Fox during that game, said Christie set the tone for the team in that 2002 season.
"It showed everybody that we weren't backing down and showed that Doug wasn't no punk," Jackson said.
Jackson and Christie weren't punks as players. Jackson, the 2002-03 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, was fearless as he drove into the lane against guys twice his size. The two constantly challenged each other as well, playing one-on-one before practice, sometimes so intensely they once split each other's heads open. Christie was able to practice against a small, fast guy and Jackson was able to get his shot off against a tall, long guy who could play defense (Christie was named NBA All-Defensive First Team in 2003 and three-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2001, 2002 and 2004).
"If you could stay with Bobby, you could stay with anybody," Christie said.
These days, the two of them bounce ideas off each other and continue their passion for the game of basketball as fellow analysts for CSN California's Kings Pregame Live and Kings Postgame Live. Their intensity and fearlessness as players is something the current Kings players could use as an example from time to time. Christie also is serving as a guest color commentator for nine "Flashback Friday" home games this season alongside Grant Napear and Jerry Reynolds. The Flashback Friday games are meant to be a look back at the team's past while celebrating its future. In addition to these duties, Christie and Jackson are regulars on KHTK 1140.
Christie, who showed interest in media at an early age by majoring in communications while at Pepperdine University before he switched to sociology, played for the Kings from 2000 to 2005. After he was traded from the Kings to the Orlando Magic, a trade that he refers to as "painful," he subsequently retired in 2007. He began in the media world with a Blog Talk Radio show with his wife Jackie and showed interest in becoming part of the TNT or NBA TV broadcast teams but never got any bites. In recent years, however, he discovered Sacramento could be a potential spot for launching a broadcast career, and now he couldn't feel more at home, again.
"I really didn't think that I would enjoy it the way that I have. I mean, I'm having an absolute blast," said Christie, who has lived in Los Angeles on and off since 2010.
Christie's energetic style of broadcasting offers color commentary with a genuine sense of excitement and when you talk to him, you understand that his enthusiasm is real. The 6'6'' former shooting guard has a passion for basketball and life that is rarely bottled up. He considers being able to talk about basketball on TV as "stealing money" because all he has to do is sit there and talk about the Kings. But while he loves it, he also recognizes that it isn't easy and is a willing student. Christie looks up to the broadcasting likes of Terry Bradshaw, Hubie Brown and the late Stuart Scott. He also watched Gary Gerould work while he was a player in Sacramento and picked up on how he took notes on a game. With a newfound appreciation for what broadcasters do and the preparation that goes into it, he is still learning when and how to deliver his opinions on the job from his colleagues at CSN and 1140. A self-described optimist, Christie admits he isn't sure if he has a broadcast style yet, but makes no apologies for seeing the positives in a bad situation, and with the Kings trying to climb out of a losing culture, there has been no shortage of those already this season.
"I'm a King for life, so I'm supporting the team ... I try to be honest, but sometimes I try to do it in an optimistic way as opposed to being pessimistic because you can do it both ways, in my opinion," Christie said.
The work ethic of Jackson and Christie as players has translated to their new lives in the broadcast world. Jackson, a former NBA coach, describes his broadcast style as being objective while criticizing both the good and bad in a constructive way. Returning to the CSN broadcast team with plenty to still learn, Jackson took communications classes over the summer to improve his craft going into this season.
"Getting the broadcasting lingo, the analyst lingo down, the communication part, knowing what to say, knowing how to smile, knowing how to talk with a lot of confidence, I think those are the things that I had to learn," Jackson said.
With former King Vlade Divac currently serving as the general manger of the team and Peja Stojakovic as the team's director of player personnel and development, there is now an official and consistent bridge between the most beloved Kings team in franchise history and the current team. Christie is happy there has been an effort to make the early 2000s team more involved in Sacramento.
"It was weird because once the trade happened there was kind of a disconnect from the Kings," Christie said. "They kind of wanted to separate themselves from that era I guess, and now there has been a resurgence of that era, which I think is absolutely awesome because that is how you keep that flow with the fans."
The Kings and Lakers aren't anywhere near the standing in the NBA they were in 2002 when Christie landed that uppercut to Rick Fox's jaw and fueled one of the most fierce rivalries in the league. But with several former players now in various roles in Sacramento, there is a reminder that things can get better, with that 1998 to 2006 stretch being the best example, no matter how far away it feels.
Christie says the Kings need consistency and to be able to trust each other on defense to take the next step. He recalls what that meant for him as player.
"I hear Vlade's voice and I trust him. He's saying it's coming on my left, I'm trusting that it's coming on my left. I hear Webb [Chris Webber] on the right, he's saying, ‘It's coming up on your right,' and I trust that. I hear Scot [Pollard] saying, ‘I got your back, I got your back,' I trust that. Defense is all about trust," Christie said. "The individual thing doesn't work in a team concept."