Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY
Published 10:33 p.m. ET May 30, 2021 | Updated 11:07 p.m. ET May 30, 2021
SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt breaks down two teams at the top of the Eastern Conference who are under pressure to make a deep run in the NBA playoffs.
A person at Sunday’s Brooklyn Nets-Boston Celtics game threw a plastic water bottle at the Nets’ Kyrie Irving as players left the floor after the Nets’ 121-98 victory in Boston.
The Nets’ TV broadcast partner, YES Network, captured the incident, which is the fourth time in the past week that a fan at an NBA playoff game has displayed unacceptable behavior.
“It’s unfortunate that sports has come to a lot of this kind of crossroad where you’re seeing a lot of old ways come up,” Irving said. “It’s been that way in history in terms of entertainment and performers and sports for a long period of time. It’s just underlying racism and treating people like they’re in a human zoo – throwing stuff at people, saying things. There’s a certain point where it gets to be too much.”
The fan was detained by Boston Police Department officers.
“Fans have got to grow up at some point,” Nets star Kevin Durant said.
Irving scored 39 points on 11-for-24 shooting, including 6-for-12 on 3-pointers.
Before the best-of-seven series headed to Boston for Games 3 and 4, Irving said, “Hopefully we can just keep it strictly basketball (and) there’s no belligerence or any racism going on, or subtle racism (or) people yelling (expletive) from the crowd.”
Irving played for the Celtics in 2017-18 and 2018-2019 and signed with the Nets during free agency in the summer of 2019.
The Nets have a 3-1 series lead.
Durant said he knows fans are stressed from the COVID-19 pandemic, but added, “When you come to these games, these men are human. We’re not animals. We’re not in the circus. … Have some respect for the game, for the players and yourself.”
Last week, fans were indefinitely banned from arenas for:
- Spitting at Atlanta guard Trae Young at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
- Directing inappropriate language at Memphis guard Ja Morant’s family at Utah’s Vivint Arena.
- Dumping popcorn on Washington’s Russell Westbrook at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.
The NBA released a statement Thursday that warned an enhanced fan code of conduct “will be vigorously enforced in order to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all involved.”
“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 all show respect for players, officials and our fellow fans,” the NBA’s statement read.
The NBA also directed fans to its Fan Code of Conduct page.
The National Basketball Players Association also released a statement
“True fans of this game honor and respect the dignity of our players,” the players’ union said. “No true fan would seek to harm them or violate their personal space. Those who do have no place in our arenas. And their conduct is appropriately evaluated by law enforcement just as if it occurred on a public street.”