Memphis, Tenn. • An already awful weekend for NBA fan behavior got even worse Sunday night when a fan in Boston launched a water bottle at ex-Celtic and current Nets guard Kyrie Irving as he left the court at TD Garden.
UtahJazz veteran Joe Ingles spoke to the issue of growing fan incidents on Monday following the team’s morning shootaround, noting that just because he’s experienced far more fan abuse in European venues than he ever has in the NBA, that’s hardly an excuse for what’s been taking place in these playoff games.
“We realize we’re in a privileged position doing what we do and making the money we make and the life we get to live, but it doesn’t give you permission to throw things at the athletes or staff or whoever is out there on the court,” Ingles said. “… Hopefully we can clear it up, because we enjoy going out there and playing for fans and having fans back, but there’s got to be a line where it doesn’t get crossed.”
In addition to Sunday’s incident with Irving, recent days have seen Hawks guard Trae Young spit upon in New York, Wizards guard Russell Westbrook have popcorn dumped on his head in Philadelphia, and Grizzlies guard Ja Morant’s family subjected to racial abuse in Salt Lake City.
Ingles, who spent parts of his professional basketball career playing in wild and hostile opposing arenas as a member of Barcelona and Maccabi Tel Aviv, said that he’s never feared for his own safety in an NBA arena, because he’s never personally experienced a level of craziness in one that could compare to the overseas experience.
“I’ve had teammates have batteries thrown at their head. One of my teammates got a coin in the forehead, and was bleeding at halftime,” Ingles recalled. “And I remember one day [with] Barcelona, we were playing in Greece, and the coach is drawing on the whiteboard and a cup of beer or a cup of soda or something hit the whiteboard — that’s how good the aim was.”
Which is not to say that Ingles is dismissing the recent incidents in the NBA — including at Vivint Arena — as not of concern.
In fact, he expressed anger and dismay and bewilderment that Morant’s family had the experience it did during last week’s Game 2 in Utah.
“If you’re a Jazz fan, go to the Utah games and support the Jazz, support me, support Donovan [Mitchell], whoever you want to support. And if you don’t want to support Memphis, you don’t want to support another team, then just don’t say anything,” Ingles said. “I just don’t understand the yelling and the abuse and going at someone … I don’t get what you get out of yelling at Ja Morant’s father or mum, brother or sister, partner, whoever.”
He called for teams and for the league to deal with such incidents “harshly” and reminded fans who might consider launching an object at a player, “it’s not a circus — you can’t get out there and throw things at us.”
He also implored them to consider the consequences of what could happen if their aim is not as good as that person’s in Greece: “What if that something doesn’t hit the player, and it hits one of the ushers or something like that?” Ingles said. “They’re [out there] making the money to to pay their bills as well.”
Ingles doesn’t want arenas to become sedate — he’s all for enthusiastic support and frenetic atmosphere. But that need not extend into taking out frustrations on or being a lowlife towards the opposition.
“Go and watch the game and support us and cheer for us and scream for us,” he said, “but you don’t need to do anything else with anyone else or any other family members or people that that aren’t on your side or team.”