NBA fans must chill out

    The issue of unruly fans in NBA arenas must be addressed

    More stories from Scott Procter


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    Fans must realize exactly what they are and stop egging on athletes to avoid confrontation.

    National Basketball Association (NBA) fans up close and personal proximity to the court is a privilege that no other fans of major sports can enjoy. Baseball stadiums have a wall around the field that can rise to anywhere north of 10 feet. Fans at football stadiums are placed above the action at least 20 to 30 feet away from the sideline and plenty ways away from the playing field.

    In NBA arenas, fans can be as close to the action as the head coach or the sixth man off the bench. Seats are sold all the way up to a team’s bench with fans able to hear coaches’ advice for their team during a timeout. Placing alcohol-consuming, overzealous fans with nothing to lose so closely to polarizing athletes in high-pressure environments is a recipe for confrontation.

    After a loss earlier this year in Denver, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook had a fan approach him and get in his face as he tried to leave the court after the buzzer. Westbrook gave the man a shove and security luckily swooped in before anything could escalate. While this situation was handled without any major implications, it’s an uncomfortable reminder of the physical access fans can have to athletes in NBA arenas.

    Even a couple weeks back after a playoff game 6 in Utah, Westbrook had two heated exchanges with Jazz fans during and after the game.

    “Here in Utah, a lot of disrespectful, vulgar things are said to the players here with these fans, man. It’s truly disrespectful. Talk about your families, about your kids,” Westbrook said during his post-game press conference. “So I just think it’s disrespectful, and they get the chance to do whatever they wanna do. It needs to be put to a stop, especially here in Utah.”

    While these altercations in Utah didn’t turn physical, they easily could have. When a drunken fan screams vulgarities dealing with your family at you while you’re engulfed in a high-intensity playoff game, who would be surprised if Westbrook snapped?

    There have been more than enough close calls between players and fans to warrant a revamp of where spectators should be allowed to sit. The most logical thing would be to remove fans from the court and keep them at more of a distance from the players. That idea would likely be laughable to NBA front office officials because that is where the big bucks are made: courtside seats.

    These expensive seats usually are occupied by celebrities, famous guests or wealthy individuals; people you would think can handle being responsible at a sporting event. However, just last week, Drake got into a shouting match with Kendrick Perkins of the Cleveland Cavaliers that resulted in both of them having to be pushed away from each other. Drake is a rapper of very small stature who has no business fighting the massive Perkins, but somehow he felt empowered to act hard in an NBA arena.

    This sudden jolt of toughness that Drake and fans in Denver and Utah have experienced is what needs to be addressed before we end up with another “Malice at the Palace” like in Detroit in 2004.

    We keep getting closer and close to real violence during our beloved sport of basketball and while it hasn’t happened just yet, it’ll be too late when it does.