Among celebrity NBA fans, Spike Lee has always stood out as the most committed. While A-listers like Jack Nicholson sit courtside and clearly care about their teams, Spike has always gone above and beyond regular fandom by talking trash with opposing players, wearing team jerseys and colors without shame, and even attending the draft in years when the Knicks didn't draft until late in the first round.
Monday, in the first part of a long interview with Jared Zwerling published on ESPNNewYork.com, Lee spoke about his Knicks fandom, including his greatest trash-talking moments and what makes him love rookie Landry Fields(notes) so much. Let's start with the former:
What's your most memorable conversation with a player during a game?
This is really surprising, and this is all true. The only time that it's ever really gotten nasty was with Reggie Miller. But we were friends before that and we've been friends since then. When I go to the games, it's to have fun. I'm respectful. If I say a player missed a shot, that's not talking about your mother, your family; it's all good nature. The players enjoy talking to me and I enjoy talking to them.
But this last time against Boston -- you know that game where they disallowed Stoudemire's three? -- Kevin Garnett(notes) lost it. He was cursing me out for no reason. Maybe because Stoudemire gave him 39 points, but take that vulgarity to Stoudemire. I'm not holding you and I did not even say [expletive] to Garnett the whole game. That really surprised me. He lost it. He was cursing at me the whole game. He needs to calm the [expletive] down.
Well, that certainly sounds like Garnett, who seems to spend most of time using anything on the court as an excuse to get angry and psyched up to pull out a victory. Of course, it's also very much Garnett to not take out that anger on the source of it and instead chew out a defenseless bystander. At least he didn't hit Spike in his privates and then pretend like it never happened.
Thankfully there's some more joyful discussion in the interview, too. Lee has broadcast his love for Landry Fields often this season, mostly by wearing a jersey of the surprisingly effective rookie at each game he attends. Here's why he chose Fields:
People are asking me, "Do you have a nickname for Landry?" I've got one: Muddy [laughs]. There's Muddy Waters; now we've got Muddy Fields because he doesn't mind getting dirty, doing the little things. Muddy Fields. I asked Landry, "You like that?" He said, "Yeah, whatever you want to do Spike; whatever you say, I'm good with you." [...]
Before Landry, what players' jerseys did you wear and why?
Nate Robinson(notes), [John] Starks. I like to get the game-worn jerseys. I loved Patrick [Ewing], but his jersey would have been down to my ankles. Also, for me to wear his jersey, he doesn't have to be the best player on the team. Like with Nate, I identified with his hustle and I was almost as tall as him [laughs]. Nate had heart. I still feel that we gave him away, though.
I suppose this means that if you want to be Spike Lee's favorite player, you better not be a center. Then again, Fields is 6-7, so maybe grit is required above all else.
These answers are also instructive for what it tells us about Lee's Knicks fandom. He's not in this for the glitz or glamor, but for the love of the game and the little things that get victories. You get the sense that he'd gladly sit in the last row of Madison Square Garden if it means the Knicks would win an important game. Can you say the same about Jack Nicholson?