The NBA has a serious problem on its hands as yet another incident between a fan and a player marred Sunday's first-round game between the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets. It came at the end of the game, as Brooklyn had secured a 141-126 victory over the Celtics to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
Kyrie Irving, a former Celtic who left the team on poor terms, was walking off of the floor through the tunnel when a water bottle was thrown by a fan and just missed hitting him in the head. He was arrested and is subject to being banned for life, according to an announcement from TD Garden. Police say that the 21-year-old faces a charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
Boston fans booed Irving voraciously during the two games in Boston. After Game 4, he seemingly wiped his foot on the face of Lucky, the Celtics leprechaun logo.
Irving is just the latest player to deal with this sort of unacceptable fan behavior. In the first round alone, there have been at least three other major incidents.
- A fan in Philadelphia threw popcorn at Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook.
- A fan in New York spat on Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young.
- Multiple fans in Utah harassed the family of Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant.
Now, Irving joins that unfortunate group of players. Earlier in the series, Irving called out Boston's fans for prior acts of racism against players. "I am just looking forward to competing with my teammates and hopefully, we can just keep it strictly basketball; there's no belligerence or racism going on -- subtle racism," Irving said after Game 2. "People yelling s--- from the crowd, but even if it is, it's part of the nature of the game and we're just going to focus on what we can control."
Irving's teammates were not happy after learning what happened. "I mean, fans gotta grow up at some point," Kevin Durant said. "I know that being in the house for a year and a half got a lot of people on edge, got a lot of people stressed out.
"But we're not animals, we're human beings ... Grow the f-- up and enjoy the game. It's bigger than you."
The NBA spent most of the season playing either without fans in arenas or with severely limited capacities. But far more fans have been allowed to attend games this postseason, and the results have been horrific for the league and its players. Four such incidents in a single playoff round are completely unacceptable, and the NBA needs to find a way to rein in its fans before this gets even more out of hand.