A fan ran onto the court in Monday night’s Game 4 matchup between the Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards, continuing a pattern of unruly behavior in NBA arenas. It was just the latest incident of a paying customer crossing the line during the 2021 playoffs.

A security guard tackled the fan, who jumped up and touched the backboard during the third quarter at Capital One Arena in Washington D.C. The fan didn’t touch or throw anything at any of the players, which has been the case several times this postseason.

Wizards guard Russell Westbrook had popcorn thrown at him in Philadelphia when he walked to the locker room with an injury in Game 2 of the first-round series. A fan at Madison Square Garden was caught spitting at Atlanta Hawks’ guard Trae Young. Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving had a water bottle launched his way Sunday night after his team defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of their series at TD Garden.

Every fan involved in those incidents haa been banned indefinitely from the arenas where the incidents took place. But the punishment isn't nearly harsh enough for the players and coaches who have been targeted.

“Banning them and this and that, what does that mean?” Wizards coach Scott Brooks asked after Monday’s game, via The Athletic. “Is there facial recognition that (means) you can’t get a ticket on the secondary market and don’t shave for a week and wear a hat and still come in? There’s criminal charges, but they’ve gotta get something on their record, and they’ve gotta get exposed, and they have to pay money out of their pockets.

"Athletes in that same situation, if Russell had thrown popcorn on somebody, trust me, there would have been a major lawsuit that (claimed) a guy can’t see or broke his neck because the popcorn hit him. And all these athletes have to defend themselves and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and get their names tarnished for these ‘fans.'”

 

 

 

In Utah, it was the family of Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant that was the victim of fan abuse. Morant’s father told ESPN that three fans directed sexually explicit and racist remarks at them during Game 2 at Vivint Arena.

"You’ve seen guys say that the way they [would have] handled it would be totally different," Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell told reporters. "It’s beyond unfortunate and it needs to change. It happened here. Trae [Young] got spit on in New York, [Russell Westbrook] getting popcorn thrown at him, and we obviously hear what's going on in Boston, too. Enough is enough, man.

"I feel like banning them is great, but I don't think they should be back. I understand there's more to it than that, and I understand that that's what the league and team is working on, but I feel like there’s no place for that in life, not even just in the game of basketball."

 

 

 

Fans have brought much-needed energy to games after last year’s playoffs were played in empty arenas inside the league’s bubble. NBA teams hosted games in completely empty or very limited-capacity venues during the 2021 regular season.

But while some fans are going too far, players and coaches are asking the league to take action.

“It’s unfortunate that one fan, here and there, it ruined it for everyone,” Brooks said. “There are great fans in Boston, New York, Philly, D.C., Utah. But there are some that need to just know, you know what? Stay home. Your thinking is barbaric.”

Historic: Russell Westbrook signals to his teammates on his way to breaking Oscar Robertson's triple-double record Historic: Russell Westbrook signals to his teammates on his way to breaking Oscar Robertson's triple-double record Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Casey Sykes