The NBA Playoffs are underway and with arenas once again filled with spectators, a disturbing trend of heckling and harassment by fans has begun to unfold. Russel Westbrook had popcorn poured on him by a fan as he exited a game with an injury, Ja Morant’s family was subject to racially-charged heckling in Salt Lake City and a Knicks fan spit on Trae Young. All of that happened just this week!
While harassment of players by fans seems to be happening all too often nowadays, the incidents aren’t new. Let’s take a look at some of the notable altercations between fans and athletes in the NBA over the past few years and weeks.
Isaiah Thomas Misses Free Throw & Gets Disrespected (2019)
In a game against the Philadelphia 76ers, then Wizards’ guard Isaiah Thomas went to shoot two free throws during the fourth quarter. After missing the first free throw, Isaiah made the second. That’s when a fan decided to flip off Isaiah with both fingers as well as shout at him “fuck you bitch” three times.
So why did the Philly fan express such hate for the Wizards guard? When Isaiah went into the stands to confront them, their reasoning was that had Isaiah missed the second free throw, they would have received a free frosty.
Russell Westbrook Responds to Racist Heckling From Jazz Fan (2019)
During a matchup against the Jazz in Salt Lake City, Russell Westbrook got in a nasty altercation with a Jazz fan. Racial comments made by the heckler set Westbrook off and he didn’t hold back when putting the fan in his place.
The incident resulted in the fan and his wife being banned from the Vivint Arena. Then Jazz-owner Gail Miller gave a speech to the arena the following home game, condemning the actions of the fan and insisting his actions were not a reflection of the Jazz organization or it’s fans.
Trae Young Spit On During Playoff Game At MSG (2021)
One of the more recent instances of fans taking things way too far was just last week during Game 2 of the playoff series between the Hawks and Knicks. Hawks’ guard Trae Young was spit on by a fan in the crowd.
Unlike other altercations on our list, Trae didn’t actually realize he’d been spit on at the moment it happened. The Knicks banned the fan from Madison Square Garden indefinitely. As if the incident isn’t bad enough – we’re still in a pandemic! Gross!
Warriors Fan Calls LeBron James Multiple Expletives After Game 2 of Finals (2015)
As LeBron James made his way to the locker room after an NBA Finals win over the Golden State Warriors, a female fan decided it would be a good idea to yell at him.
“LeBron, how does it feel to be a pussy ass bitch?” shouted the fan over reporters and TV cameras.
LeBron stopped in his tracks to look in the direction of the comment, he was clearly surprised someone would be so disrespectful. After a quick moment he continued on his way.
“Watch your mouth woman!” a security guard responded to the heckler, even warning her she better hope he doesn’t recognize her face.
Kyrie Irving Has Water Bottle Thrown At Him In Boston (2021)
The trend of players being harassed by fans in the 2021 playoffs just seems to continue. After the Nets’ win over the Celtics on Sunday a fan tossed a water bottle in the direction of Kyrie Irving as he headed towards the tunnel.
Kyrie and his teammates stopped to point out the fan following the incident. He was later detained by Boston Police Department officers.
Ron Artest Runs into The Stands (2004)
The incident began as a push-and-shove between Ron Artest and Ben Wallace. Players from both the Pacers and Pistons joined in and a confrontation between the two teams escalated. Just as things begin to simmer down, a Pistons fan throws a cup full of presumably beer at Ron Artest. Once the cup hits Artest, all hell breaks loose.
Artest proceeded to hop over the scorer’s table to lay a beating on the fan that tossed the cup at him. Other Pacers players joined in, resulting in a brawl between players and fans in the stands. That brawl spilled onto the court itself, with some fans coming onto the hardwood to confront players.
Then as the Pacers attempted to head into their tunnel, fans in the arena threw a storm of bottles and other items in their direction. One hard foul turned the entire arena into a world class shit show that night and tainted the reputation of Pistons fans for years to come.
The trend of fans taking heckling to dangerous and disrespectful new levels isn’t new at all, it’s an issue the league has been dealing with for years. Perhaps incidents occurring at such frequent rates throughout this year’s playoffs will make the issue a priority for league leadership.
For all things NBA Playoffs, stay tuned to Athletes Creative Trap!