Today in Sports History: April 24th

4/24/1983 - Tree Bites Man

It's a classic NBA altercation. In a first round meeting between the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks, Boston sharp-shooter Danny Ainge takes one too many elbows from Hawks center Wayne "Tree" Rollins. Ainge, who had allegedly called Rollins a "sissy," finally ran up and tackled the 7-footer, causing a bench-clearing brawl to ensue. While Ainge and Rollins were scuffling on the floor, Rollins took a bite at Ainge's middle finger.

"He almost bit my finger off,'' Ainge recounted to Sports Illustrated. "He bit it all the way through. I had to get two stitches.''

Ainge was ejected from the game, as was Atlanta guard Mike Glenn. Rollins, however, was not ejected. Boston went on to win the game and sweep the Hawks out of the postseason. Rollins was later given a $5,000 fine and a five-game suspension to be assessed at the beginning of the '83-84 season.

The Boston Herald covered the story with the headline: "Tree Bites Man." In later years, the facts of the incident began to strain, and people began to believe that it was Ainge who had bitten Rollins, and not the other way around. Ainge was able to dispell these rumors, though only after displaying the scar that had been made on his middle finger.

4/24/1994 - Robinson scores 71

Throughout the season, David Robinson and Shaquille O'Neal were in a one-two battle to see who would claim the NBA's scoring title. The league's leading scoring average had switched hands several times, with Robinson and Shaq stealing the advantage by mere percentage points. With three games to go in the season, Shaquille O'Neal had scored 53 points to regain the lead by less than a point.

On the final day of the season, Robinson and O'Neal were virtually tied as their respected teams ended the year on a Sunday. With Robinson's Spurs on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers, his game would conclude just as O'Neal's would begin; fearing that O'Neal would simply aim to outscore him, Robinson's teammates did everything they could to get him the ball.

When it was all said done, Robinson scored a remarkable 71 points -- joining Wilt Chamberlain, David Thompson, and Elgin Baylor as the only players to reach the 70's -- as his Spurs won 112-97. Robinson shot 26-41 from the field, made 18-25 free throws, and even knocked down a three-point shot. His teammates deferred to him on every possession and even fouled down the stretch just to get him more shot attempts. Shaquille O'Neal needed 68 points to win back the scoring title, but he finished with a quiet 32. In the final total, Robinson finished with 29.8 points per game, while Shaq ended with a 29.3 average.

Members of the Orlando Magic cried foul, particularly head coach Brian Hill, who called it a "farce that's bad for basketball." "We certainly wanted Shaquille to win the scoring title," Hill said. "But we didn't make a mockery of the game like they did in Los Angeles -- I hear the Clippers just let David score whenever he wanted ... We played a game tonight -- it wasn't a mockery."

Spurs coach John Lucas defended the point total, as did Robinson himself. "It is a lot of work going after those points," he said. "The Clippers didn't want me to get it. They were bumping and grinding and double-teaming me. That's the hardest I've ever had to work for some points."

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