The Toronto Raptors took a 2-1 NBA Finals series lead after beating the Golden State Warriors in Game 3, 123-109, in Oakland on Wednesday.
But unfortunately, the top headline isn’t the fact that the “underdog” Raptors are taking it to the defending champs or that the Warriors — despite a career-performance by star Stephen Curry — couldn’t keep home-court advantage.
It’s not even if or when will Warriors all-stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson will return from injury.
Instead, the trending headline from Game 3 is that a spectator who was sitting courtside needlessly decided to cross boundaries.
During Wednesday’s game, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry went after a loose ball and dove into a row of seats. Two seats away from where Lowry landed, the spectator shoved Lowry. The Raptors guard said the the man also shouted vulgar language at him.
Soon after, it was reported that man sitting courtside was Mark Stevens, an investor and a member of the executive board of the Golden State Warriors.
It was reported Thursday the NBA fined Stevens $500,000 and banned him for one year, which includes league games and team events.
I wasn’t there, though I would love courtside seats to the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena.
I don’t know Stevens. Maybe he’s an animated supporter of the Warriors and in this instance let his emotions get the better of him, a la Spike Lee or Drake.
But even if that were the case, it doesn’t excuse him.
It doesn’t matter how much money you paid for those seats (On VividSeats on Thursday, one courtside ticket to Game 4 went anywhere between $5,000 to $10,000, and a VIP courtside ticket went anywhere between $14,000 to $18,000). It doesn’t give you the green light to physically touch the players.
Cheer and jeer all you want, but physically touching them crosses the line, let alone physical assault.
Lowry said to the media that he wanted that Warriors executive out of the league. I lean toward Lowry’s side.
Earlier this year, the Utah Jazz issued lifetime bans to a couple of fans who shouted derogatory language to opposing players. Before a game following such an incident, Jazz owner Gail Miller addressed the crowd and implored the team’s fans to do better, saying “we are not a racist community.”
Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook has had a few altercations with fans that were widely reported. Also earlier this year, New York Knicks fan James Dolan threatened to ban a heckling fan after the fan shouted at him to sell the team.
A one-year ban and a $500K fine (it was reported that Stevens is a Silicon Valley billionaire) seems awfully light for a team executive shoving an opposing player.
It’s clear there is a trend going on in the NBA. If the league doesn’t nip this in the bud sooner than later, then we are one really ballsy or really stupid “fan” going after a not-so kind or patient player away from “Malace at the Palace” Part 2.
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.