On Tuesday night, Russell Westbrook had to get out his Dad Hat in the middle of a game and lecture a kid and his father about appropriate and respectful fan behavior.
And he had a good reason. During the third quarter of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 121-112 loss to the Denver Nuggets, the kid (presumably a Nuggets fan) tapped or lightly pushed Westbrook just after the ref blew the whistle. Westbrook turned around and stared the kid down for a few seconds before going over to talk to him and his dad.
A kid sitting front row tapped Russ, and Russ stared him down before going over to talk 😂 pic.twitter.com/IwiwCq19XE
— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) February 27, 2019
Westbrook kept his cool and didn’t get angry, because the issue isn’t that the kid injured him. The issue is that the kid felt like he could just touch a player during a game.
After the game, Westbrook talked to the media about the incident, and revealed what he said to the young fan and his dad during their interaction.
Russell Westbrook on the courtside incident with the kid pic.twitter.com/3qHODHPn8w
— Brady Trantham (@BradyDoesSports) February 27, 2019
“He hit me. So I told his dad, ‘Be careful, man, you can’t have your son just hitting random people. I don’t know him, he don’t know me. So, just letting him know, ‘You’ve just got to control your kids.’ [...]
“For all fans though, there’s too much leeway for the fans to be able to touch the players and get away with it, and then you can’t react and do the things that we need to do to protect ourselves. … But I can’t do nothing. What am I going to do, hop in the stands? But there has to be some type of rule or some type of boundaries set that you can’t allow that.”
Basketball lends itself to this kind of player-fan interaction more than any other pro sport simply due to the design of the court and the stands. In baseball, football, and hockey, there’s a defined barrier between fans and the field of play. In basketball, fans have nothing between them and the players, and fans in the best seats (like the kid and his dad had) are essentially courtside.
With the ability to get close to the players (close enough to actually touch them), what Westbrook is asking for isn’t nuts. He doesn’t think that fans should be allowed to touch him or any other player during a game, which is just common sense. Imagine a fan walking up to a player and giving him a light shove during a football or baseball game. That would never be allowed, so why should basketball be any different?
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