Every basketball enthusiast has seen it at least once. A courtside fan heckles a player on an inbound or after a jump shot, or the section behind the backboard brings a special sign to distract the away team’s free throw shooter.
The relationship between fan and athlete is not only important but entertaining at times. But what happens when a line is crossed? Sometimes, it is harmless, like comedian Tony Roberts sneaking past security to warm up with the New Orleans Pelicans. Sometimes, it leads to fights and altercations.
The last thing the NBA wants is another Malice in the Palace, the worst incident between fans and players in recent history, and it is evident by the direction the league took prior to that event.
The hardest part about this particular problem, much like personal fouls in a game, is figuring out the case-by-case severity of the issue. Someone storming the court to punch a player deserves a harsher punishment than screaming a curse word at them from the stands.
However, there should be a minimum punishment for all fans who behave in a negative manner. If a fan cannot keep their interactions with other fans, arena workers and athletes at the game light-hearted and respectful they should be banned from all events for that particular arena, and all events of the NBA.
Depending on the severity of the case, for either a year, 5 years, 10 years, or life.
This past season, the disrespect from fans has been getting worse. The privilege the fans have with what they feel they can get away with is getting out of hand. Some blame it on the fact that fans have been cooped up at home because of COVID-19, although I don’t believe this to be a valid enough excuse.
Fans have progressively gotten more out of hand this season, and it needs to stop. It is not entire arenas or even most fans, just the occasional man-child who cannot behave themselves in a public setting, which is causing tensions to rise between players and fans.
The NBA already handles situations like these in a similar manner. For example, the Philadelphia 76ers fan who threw popcorn at Russell Westbrook as he entered the tunnel has been banned indefinitely from Wells Fargo Arena. Now, what if he goes to Los Angeles and does the same thing to Lebron James at another NBA game?
It was never stated this individual was blacklisted from NBA events, which means this could occur again with the same fan somewhere else.
These out-of-control fans need to understand a few things. First, realize how privileged you are to be at a live sporting event like an NBA game. Do not take it for granted. It is a blessing many do not ever get to experience in their lifetime and these fans have lost sight of that.
Second, these athletes are human beings. For some reason, some sports fans lose all form of basic respect with the excuse “it’s sports bro” as if that is an acceptable excuse to treat anyone disrespectfully. This point was echoed by Kevin Durant as he spoke about a fan who threw a water bottle at Kyrie Irving.
Third, these players are very large humans. What some fail to realize is someone could have gotten seriously injured or died during the Malice at the Palace in 2004. It’s as if fans have forgotten the phrase “you mess with the bull, you get the horns”.
Let’s remember that few people are confronting Russell Westbrook or any other NBA player in any other public setting in such a disrespectful manner.
A fan stormed the court during game four of the Sixers and Washington Wizards series. Another fan spat at Trae Young. During a pandemic. This is unacceptable, and the easiest way to make it stop is with stricter permanently set rules. If the NBA flexes their muscle, fans will fall in line.
Out-of-control fans, as well as the NBA playoffs were discussed in detail by myself and reporter Jonathan Ghattas on the Blitz & Audible Podcast which is available on News4usonline.com and on Spotify.
Featured Image Caption: Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline