Kevin Durant spoke out against NBA fans taking interactions with players too far. This followed two recent fan incidents involving Durant’s former teammate Russell Westbrook in Philadelphia, and his current teammate, Kyrie Irving, in Boston.
In any sensitive situation, the right message combined with the right messenger can spur massive change. We’ve seen this in sports many times, from Muhammad Ali to Tommie Smith and John Carlos to Billie Jean King to Stephen Jackson.
When the wrong messenger delivers the message, it can become problematic. Even if what they are saying is correct, it can hurt the message’s validity, lead to backlash, and even have the opposite of the messenger’s intended effect.
Kevin Durant is the wrong person to tell anyone to “grow up.”
After an incident between Kyrie Irving and a fan, Kevin Durant delivered a strong message
The Brooklyn Nets dominated the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series, walking away with a 141-126 victory. Once the Nets actually started walking away from the game, the real drama began.
Former Celtic Irving took the opportunity following the win to stomp on his former team’s logo at midcourt. This followed comments earlier in the weeks where Irving said of playing in Boston, “Hopefully we can just keep it strictly basketball, you know there’s no belligerence or any racism going on, subtle racism, and people yelling s**t from the crowd.”
As Irving walked off the court, a Celtics fan threw a water bottle at Irving. While it looks like the bottle missed or barely grazed the Nets star, it could have done damage if it hit him the right way. No matter the outcome, throwing anything at players is absolutely unacceptable fan behavior.
Boston police promptly arrested the water bottle-throwing fan.
After the game, reporters asked Durant to weigh in on the incident. He said about the fans involved in these incidents:
Have some respect for yourself. Your mother wouldn’t be proud of you throwing water bottles at basketball players, or spitting on players, or tossing popcorn. So, grow the f**k up and enjoy the game. It’s bigger than you.
While the sentiment is correct, the fact that Durant is the one saying this smacks of irony.
Durant telling someone else to ‘grow up’ is laughable
When Durant, then with the Oklahoma City Thunder, won the NBA MVP Award in 2014, he famously thanked his mom, telling her, “You the real MVP.” While Durant’s mother was surely immensely proud at that moment, there have been several moments since that must not have made her feel that way.
In 2017, internet sleuths exposed Durant for using burner accounts on social media. This happened around the time he left the Thunder to join Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors to chase a championship. He used these accounts to defend himself in the third person against people criticizing him online.
In 2021, actor Michael Rapaport releases a series of direct messages on social media between himself and the former Warrior forward. Following Rapaport criticizing a postgame interview from Durant, the 32-year-old basketball player sent a string of vulgar and homophobic messages to the 51-year-old TV and movie star.
You wonder if after these incidents, highlighting Durant’s own immaturity, his mother told him to grow the f**k up?
Durant’s the wrong messenger, but his message is right
One of the most unfortunate parts of all that transpired last night with the fan incident and the postgame comments from Durant is that he isn’t wrong. However, he is the wrong person to deliver the message.
Players, coaches, media, team and league officials, and other fans need to call out this behavior as completely intolerable. Fans pay money for their ticket, which entitles them to cheer or boo or even heckle players, but it should never be ok to cross a certain line.
That line occurs when fans use any type of hate speech or physically engage and assault players. This is the line the fans who threw popcorn, and the water bottle crossed at these recent games.
These types of attacks are, at best, incredibly disrespectful toward players trying to do their jobs and, at worst, downright dangerous. It needs to stop before we see another incident like the Detroit Pistons/ Indiana Pacers “Malice in the Palace” situation in 2004. In 2021, a physical confrontation between fans and players could be even worse.
Hopefully, the ever-petulant Durant delivering this message doesn’t undercut its validity.