Russell Westbrook encountered a heckler, not in court but on the street
This is probably most challenging season during Russell Westbrook’s 14-year career in the NBA. Teaming up with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Lakers proved to be an experiment not worth repeating next season.
All Westbrook’s shortcomings on the field has been magnified by playing in Los Angeles, and it affect him on and off the court. Fans and the media have been relentless in their criticism of Russ’ game. Now we’ve gotten to the point where fans feel comfortable enough to approach him on the street and criticize Westbrook straight in the face.
Fan arrogance and entitlement seems to be exacerbated in the NBA every year. Over the past few years, we’ve seen Westbrook and other players involved in some of the most disrespectful incidents in the arenas surrounding the league. A fan popcorn on Westbrook during last season’s first-round playoffs in Philadelphia when he played for the Washington Wizards. Another incident during last year’s playoffs involved a Knicks fans spit about Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young.
Heckling is one thing and most people have no problem with this, including players. But when fans started throwing things and spitting at players now, they not only crossed a line, but two steps above all. Certainly not the majority of fans acting extravagantly, but even an incident like this is outrageous.
Now we’ve got this guy recording himself tricking Westbrook, hanging out with him on the street. I’m not sure if this guy would do the same thing with no space between him and Russ, but you never know. Some people are just looking for their “viral moment” and that’s all they care about.
The NBA has done a great job of kicking/banning fans from getting too close to players in arenas, but there’s not much they can do in a situation like the one Westbrook did in Toronto. The guy is unknown except for his voice. All they exchange is words, but those brief changes can quickly escalate. Luckily, Russ was able to walk away before things got out of hand.
Love for your team is one thing, but sometimes it can be too much. You never want to see something like this because with the wrong player, on the wrong day, we could be talking about a much more serious encounter than what happened in the Toronto video. It feels like some fans are just trying to get one of these pro athletes to attack them because they know payday will come later.
I know the NBA is focused on the fan experience and fans are on the floor during games, but at some point the league may really need to consider shifting the first row back a bit. Players fighting fans won’t get the tournament anywhere. We have seen it with Malice at the Palace, and it didn’t end well for anyone involved. In November, LeBron has two the fans have started in Indiana for something they told him he felt he had gone too far.
Buying tickets doesn’t mean you can say and do whatever you want in the games. Where external confrontations are concerned, I just hope the players continue to be smart about it and not make any hasty decisions that cost them in the long run. Something must be given before something terrible happens to a fan or player.