After going more than a year without being allowed at live sporting events, fans are finally starting to be allowed inside of NBA arenas. It has been refreshing to hear natural crowd reactions from actual human beings instead of artificial crowd noise being pumped into the arena. More importantly, as we roll along with the NBA playoffs home court advantage means something.
Unfortunately for the NBA, allowing fans back into arenas has not been all positive. Since the playoffs began on May 22, there have been several incidents where fans have completely crossed the line with NBA players, and it does not seem as if any improvement has been made as it pertains to fan behavior. It actually seems to be getting worse.
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Metta Sandiford-Artest Speaks on Beef Between Kyrie & The Celtics
After Game 4 between the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics, 21-year-old Celtics fan, Cole Buckley threw a water bottle in the direction of Nets’ star Kyrie Irving. It is the same type of action that caused Metta Sandiford-Artest (formerly Ron Artest) to go in the stands and physically assault a fan in one of the most notorious events in NBA history known as “Malice at the Palace.” Artest knows better than anyone that players overreacting to fans’ taunts can put a stain on the player for the rest of his career. At the same time, unruly fans also need to be held accountable for their actions.
“I know you can’t throw things, but I also know Kyrie played in Boston. I like Boston. I don’t think it’s as much racism as it is salty fans are upset that Kyrie is not there,’’ Sandiford-Artest said to Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson of Bally Sports. “I love NBA fans, but you also have to protect the players.
Several incidents between NBA players and fans have brought the issue of player safety to the forefront. Last week a 76ers fan threw popcorn on Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook and in the same night a Knicks fan spat at Trae Young. Westbrook was visibly upset but was eventually able to regain his composure and Young decided not to press charges on the fan. But cooler heads will not always prevail in these situations, which is the concerning part for Sandiford-Artest.
“I love how Kyrie, Westbrook, and Trae responded,” Sandiford-Artest continued. “But what happens if they get really upset? Fans gotta be aware and control themselves and enjoy the game. It’s becoming a habit. This s*** all happened in one week.’’
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Metta Sandiford-Artest Reflects on Malice at the Palace
Sandiford-Artest knows all about how unruly NBA fans can get. He was involved in the infamous Malice at the Palace in Detroit in 2004. The Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers were set to square off in a rematch of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals and in the 4th quarter, the Pacers were blowing out the defending champs.
Near the end of the game, Sandiford-Artest committed a hard foul on Piston’s big man Ben Wallace which upset Wallace and caused him to retaliate by shoving Artest, hard. After the refs got in control of the situation a Pistons fan threw a beer bottle at Sandiford-Artest as he lay on the scorer’s table. The fan’s actions made Sandiford-Artest go into the stands and physically assault the fan. The former Pacer was suspended for the remainder of the 2004-05 season but even worse, his name has remained synonymous with the incident to this day.
“I feel a certain way about it. I was highly upset when I got hit. Black and white media were painting a bad narrative about me. People always say I attacked the wrong person. As my name is brought up in this, I’m trying my best to hold my composure,” Sandiford-Artest continued.
“As humans, we make mistakes that have to be addressed, me and the guy are friends now. I reached out to him, and we became friends. I don’t bring up race. Nobody ever talks about the fact that I’m cool with the guy now. He and I talk about once a month.”
To have a repeat of Malice at The Palace would be devastating for the NBA community. But that is exactly the direction that we are headed in if the NBA does not get fan’s unruly behavior under control soon.