The NBA's 2021 playoffs have been a blast, and for the first time in over a year, spectators have been allowed back in arenas to witness the postseason action in person. Fans have, without a doubt, brought back the energy that was missing during the previous playoffs that took place in the famous NBA Bubble in Orlando, but there's also been an uptick in unacceptable fan behavior that has put players and others at risk.
The NBA first made a statement about fan altercations on May 27, a day after a fan dumped popcorn on Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook as he headed back to the locker room to be evaluated. Read the initial comments in regards to the incident, and continue on for the reported ways the NBA intends to deal with all offending fans going forward.
The return of more NBA fans to our arenas has brought great excitement and energy to the start of the playoffs, but it is critical that we show respect for all players, officials and our fellow fans. An enhanced fan code of conduct will be vigorously enforced in order to ensure a safe and respectful enviornment for all involved.
In the time since that incident, many more high-profile incidents have sprung up involving fans and other NBA superstars like Trae Young, Kyrie Irving, and Ja Morant. Now, The Athletic's Shams Charania reports that the NBA has reached out to teams for new measures on how to handle these and future disputes, and the bottom line is that there could be serious consequences for any fan to try something going forward.
The NBA has reportedly encouraged teams not only to ban fans who get in altercations with players from the arena for life but also to "develop processes for pursuing law violations" as well. In addition to that, teams will announce the "code of conduct" within the arena at three different points during the game. Finally, more arena security is expected to be used for games going forward to help further prevent altercations.
The measures are necessary, especially given the uptick in aggressive interactions between fans and NBA athletes. Beyond the Russell Westbrook incident, Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young was spat on by a fan as he inbounded the ball. The Celtics' Kyrie Irving was pelted with a plastic water bottle by a fan, and Utah Jazz fans were removed by security after verbally abusing the family of Grizzlies star Ja Morant. In the latest incident, a fan rushed the court mid-game during a matchup between the Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers but was tackled by security as he reached the edge of the hardwood.
It remains to be seen how far these reported measures will go in preventing fans from further out-of-line behavior at events. It's worth noting that even before this latest report some offending parties had already received bans from the arenas and criminal charges, and altercations continued. Perhaps now that it's more known, though, we can expect the next few weeks of the playoffs to go a lot smoother than they've started.
The 2021 NBA playoffs are in full gear, so be sure to check local listings daily for the time and channel to watch all the action go down. For more on basketball, be sure to watch Adam Sandler's recent pickup game if you haven't gotten a chance to see it yet.