BOSTON — Kyrie Irving is no stranger to fan interactions.
His famous NSFW response to a heckler last season asking where LeBron James was made headlines and was talked about throughout the year. While his interaction was humorous more than anything, it’s nothing compared to how heated Russell Westbrook’s heated altercation earlier this week.
Westbrook and a Utah Jazz fan had a colorful exchange that resulted in a fine for the Oklahoma City Thunder star, while the Jazz fan was banned for life from Vivint Smart Home Arena. Every fan base has hecklers, and players are well aware of that — especially on the road. But Irving had a long, thought-out response to Westbrook’s interaction, saying it happens quite a bit — just not always on camera.
His response comes with a NSFW warning.
“It happens so often and most of the time doesn’t get documented,” Irving said. “I think this is one of the first times it actually got caught on camera and you caught a player responding like that on camera. and it’s no justification on either side who’s right who’s wrong, but at the same time we’re trying to protect the league that goes about being compassionate for the players, being compassionate for their fans, the interaction, being very, very passionate about your team, your home team, and who you root for, the players, it’s a big thing.
“And we all try to protect the league and I think that when it’s an individual battle with a person in the crowd and they say something violently disrespectful like that, then it’s gonna warrant a reaction,” he continued. “Because I think at the same time, if we were out and about with our families, ain’t nobody saying no sh-t like that to us. So then it becomes a human being thing, and things escalate and the NBA comes in and does what they’re supposed to do and protect the players.
“I don’t know who’s right or who’s wrong in that situation, but I’m just glad everyone’s OK. But when disrespectful stuff happens like that it’s gonna warrant a reaction. We all know Russ, so somebody says something like, he’s not going crazy out of nowhere like that. I’m just glad he’s OK.”
When asked if Irving heard anything racial from fans, he said he’s “heard it all” but it’s different in Utah due to how the arena is set up.
“Utah, Phoenix, California, wherever you wanna go fans are gonna be passionate about their teams, but that’s just taking it too far. And then on top of it, in Utah, the fans are right on top of you … I don’t really mind the fan interaction, but not while I’m at work … let me come to our office and yell in your ear like that. It’s just a respect thing of the game and people’s professions.”
Hard to argue with any of that.
While Westbrook and Irving’s interactions were vastly different in nature, it still goes to show how heckling can be both fun and damaging to athletes.
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Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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