Russell Westbrook is as passionate as any, and sometime that comes with frustration towards fans. Last year he tried to swat a fan’s phone while it was recording him, this week he schools a kid that touched him during his game against Denver.
The triple double machine known as Russell Westbrook is surely a fiesty player. Known for having no friends on the court other than the ball, Westbrook is a fierce competitor that comes to play. He’s definitely an emotional guy, and sometimes that leads to his frustration with fans.
Fans have made insults, obscene gestures, whined, heckled, and just generally pestered opposing players since the dawn of sports. Persistent heckling is nothing new, but sometimes it can be taken too far. Talking about family or other sensitive topics isn’t off limits for fans, but NBA players are unable to retaliate and simply have to suffer through the abuse.
One thing that seems to be a sticking point with Westbrook is his personal space. Last year during the playoffs, Westbrook swatted at a fan’s phone while being recorded. It may have been in part due to his disappointment with the Thunder being eliminated by the Jazz, but it’s not like Russell went out of his way to hit the phone, it was literally in his face, and obstructing his personal space.
Disrupting a player’s personal space is never smart, but doing so during a highly tense moment is outright stupid and downright provocative behavior. NBA players do make millions playing a sport, but they’re still human and ruled largely by emotions, so sometimes reactions like the phone swat happen.
Pesky fans come in all sizes
Westbrook’s latest altercation came Tuesday night against the Nuggets. Late in the third quarter, a very young Nuggets fan stood up and tapped Westbrook on the arm as he was running by. Westbrook immediately took offense to this, and stopped to turn around, looking fairly furious.
He quickly realized that it was a young kid who tapped him on the arm, so he paused to collect himself. As a father himself, Westbrook understands that kids will be kids, and simply don’t know any better. Rather than deciding to react with anger despite fuming, Westbrook calmly explained to the boy and his father how that simplyy wasn’t okay. Westbrook took it a step further and patted the boy to reassure him. Overall, quite a classy move from Westbrook considering how irritated he was by the incident.
After the game, Westbrook ranted to media about how players need better protection from fans. This certainly isn’t the first time he’s spoken up about this, and it’s something he firmly believes.
Part of the issue is that NBA courts are structured without room for players to land or extend beyond small, out-of-bounds areas. NBA arenas want to provide close, courtside seats as those fetch the highest price. Doing this comes at cost to the players, who often run into the stands and crash into cameramen on the sidelines.
Either way, Westbrook has a point. Often times, NBA players are no longer viewed as human beings. Fans feel free to heckle and say as they please, and if they’re close enough, poke and prod at them. Well, an NBA court isn’t a zoo and players aren’t animals. They do provide world-class entertainment, but paying for a ticket doesn’t entitle you to get into a player’s face.