Sitting courtside at an NBA game opens up fans to do or say things within earshot of players — and that is not always a good thing.
Ask Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who claimed to be the subject of a disparaging comment by a Denver Nuggets fan on Friday in a 96-92 loss at the Pepsi Center.
Smart said after the game that after diving for a loose ball, his foot became stuck in a chair. It was then, according to Smart, that a fan said, “That’s right, stay on the ground, get on your knees.”
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) November 23, 2019
Smart said he pointed out the fan to security at the arena, but they didn’t remove him from the game.
“Probably if I was a superstar, they probably would have done something for it, but it is what it is,” Smart said.
Player-fan rift is not new
This is far from the first incident between players and fans. In March, Russell Westbrook, then a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, confronted a fan and the man’s wife during a game against the Utah Jazz after they told him to “get down on my knees like I used to.”
Westbrook was captured responding: "I swear to God, I’ll [expletive] you up. You and your wife, I’ll [expletive] you up. Promise you on everything I love, I promise you.”
Westbrook was fined $25,000 by the league for the comments, but the fan was permanently banned by the Jazz.
‘You’ve got to protect yourself’
Fan behavior is an issue that NBA players have spoken up about, and Friday’s incident involving Smart was just the latest one. Smart said that players will eventually have to protect themselves against fan misbehavior, and it won’t be pretty for the fans.
“We don’t want that as players, but at some point you’ve got to stand up and you’ve got to protect yourself as a man,” Smart said.
He added that the situation would have been handled differently “if we [were] in the streets.”
According to the Denver Post, the Nuggets said that security “couldn’t determine what happened.”
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