Issue 86: Hey, NBA Fans…What Are You Doing?

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The NBA playoffs tipped off this week, and that’s very exciting. For some arenas, it’s also the first time they’re opening up their doors to a large swath of fans.

And I get the passion. I’ve attended plenty of games over the years. I’ve participated in cheering and high-fiving strangers after wins, and booing opposing players, especially if they make a big play to take the lead.

Even when the stakes are low, the atmosphere is electric.

In the playoffs? It’s even more Gwen Stefani (a.k.a. b-a-n-a-n-a-s).

But there’s been an alarming trend going on during this first week of the playoffs: fans abusing their privileges and putting players at risk.

At Madison Square Garden, a Knicks fan spit on Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young. Young was able to joke about it afterwards with Señor USD $0.50. But even if he didn’t feel the saliva or see who did it, this is a despicable act.

Meanwhile, in Utah, Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant was excelling on the court. But his family had to hear derogatory remarks from Jazz fans. Like, not heckling. Things that would make you or me—you know, rational people—recoil.

And in Philadelphia, Russell Westbrook was exiting the court with an ankle injury. As he headed to the locker room, someone poured popcorn on his head.

In all these situations, the fans received some form of punishment. Both the Knicks and Sixers have banned the offenders from their arenas, and other Jazz fans pointed out the hecklers had them removed.

But just look how beaten down Westbrook seems. Here he is after the incident:

Westbrook is right, and it’s easy to wonder why this is happening. These aren’t the first negative interactions between players and fans, but they’re popping up a lot.

Has everyone forgotten how to act? I’ve had post-quarantine conversations with people, so I understand that you may have awkward moments when trying to figure out if you should hug or fist bump, or when you ask people how they’ve been and they say “you too.”

It’s weird for all of us. Yet the vast majority of the population can still behave themselves, even if their team is playing well (or poorly).

I love basketball more than just about anything else. That doesn’t entitle me to treat other people like they’re not human beings.

Why fans think they can do that just because they paid money to attend a game is baffling. We’re not here to watch them act like fools and put others in harm’s way.

Throwing anything at anyone that isn’t looking, unless it’s a nice crisp bounce pass, is reckless at best and dangerous at worst.

Rich Eisen sums it up nicely. If you know anyone that might throw popcorn or spit on or be rude to someone, show them this video. And please keep being kind to everyone.

Other Reads and Watches

Rod Benson on the mental toll of an NBA career

Madalyn Mendoza on ESPN disrespecting the Spurs

Ian O’Connor on the most misunderstood player in the league

Eek, this Rudy Gobert block!

That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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