When the New York Knicks visited the Chicago Bulls in January 2006, the hype was centered on Eddy Curry's return to the Windy City. After the game, all the talk about was Antonio Davis.
During a timeout break in the final minutes of the game, the Knicks forward climbed over the scorers' table and into the stands of the United Center. Davis walked ten rows up before reaching the area where his wife, Kendra, and his two kids were sitting. The delay was temporally extended as a crowd of gawkers, officials, and security surrounded the area. Davis, who did not take a swing or do anything at all hostile, shortly returned to the court and was automatically ejected for entering the stands.
"I witnessed my wife being threatened by a man that I learned later to be intoxicated," Davis stated in a written statement. "I saw him touch her, and I know I should not have acted the way I did, but I would have felt terrible if I didn't react. There was no time to call security. It happened too quickly."
Antonio's actions made headlines, as the NBA was only a year past the Pacers-Pistons brawl, where Ron Artest had stormed into the stands to beat up a fan. In fact, Davis entered the seats on the same day that five of the Pacers involved in that brawl were sentenced to a year of probation.
Davis was suspended five games, a considerably lenient punishment that might have been greater if not for his crystal clear reputation; at the time, he was also the president of the the NBA players' union. While some sportswriters criticized Davis' crowd appearance as reckless, most commended his reasons for jumping into the stands.
The spectator who Davis identified as the heckler was 22 year-old Michael Axelrod (the bald man in the leather jacket at the top of the photo), who happened to be the son of David Axelrod, the chief political consultant for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. Michael, who refuted the assertion that he was drunk, had been seen arguing with Kendra Davis after loudly booing a call that went against the Bulls. Kendra reportedly then began to yell at him, prompting Axelrod to motion for security to come and defuse the situation. "I started trying to wave more security down, then I turned around and Antonio Davis was standing right there," he said a few days later. Although Kendra would argue that she wasn't the aggressor, she lacked credibility in the matter, having once engaged in a shouting match with Latrell Sprewell in 2001.
Axelrod threatened to sue for $1 million, but eventually met with the Davises and came to an agreement. The hoopla surrounding Davis' antics overshadowed the basketball game, which also produced a pair of ejections, a game-tying three and a game-winning shot by Ben Gordon in overtime.