Things got testy at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Monday night, but not between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Russell Westbrook got into quite the colorful verbal altercation with a fan during the game. This wasn’t the first time the guard let Jazz fans get under his skin, as he slapped a phone from a fan’s hand last season. But things escalated quickly Monday, with Westbrook telling the fan, “I’ll f–k you up. You and your wife.”
While the heated exchange didn’t escalate into anything physical, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on Tuesday said it could have been much worse had Westbrook acted on his anger and went into the stands to confront the fan.
“Take the man’s wife out of the equation,” Smith said. “If you went up into that stands and put your hand on that man, do you have any idea what the repercussions of that would have been? No matter how justified some people may think he is. I was covering the league when Ron Artest ran into those stands (in 2004) and commissioner David Stern at the time suspended him or the rest of the season. Steven Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal and all those guys got a suspension. They asked the commissioner at the time, David Stern, he said ‘Did you put this to a vote?’, he said ‘Absolutely it was unanimous one to zero.’
“Because his whole thing was protecting the league from the standpoint you got advertisers, sponsors,” Smith added. “Unfortunately as much as you might be right and tempted to go at that fan, if he had gone into the stands, we might be having a different discussion.”
The 2004 brawl Smith refers to was the “Malice at the Palace” between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons. The fight spilled into the stands and lasted several minutes. It also resulted in probation and community service for Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest), Jackson and O’Neal.
The Jazz fan ultimately was banned from Vivint Smart Home Arena for life while Westbrook received a $25,000 fine.
Thumbnail photo via Jaime Valdez/USA TODAY Sports Images