NBA Etiquette: The Way to Leave Athletes Alone, Featuring Kevin Durant

Todd Pheifer@tpheiferAnalyst IIIJune 8, 2013

It is a pleasant summer evening, and I am at the Hollywood Bowl for a concert with my son. One of my son’s classmates and his dad had extra tickets, so they invited us to go.

The concert starts, and we are enjoying the music. In the semi-darkness, I notice a small group of people make their way up the aisle from the corner of the amphitheater, near the stage. Normally, such a group would not be that noticeable, but one of the members of the group was quite tall.

Quite tall.

At 6’2”, I am not exactly of diminutive stature, but this guy had me by a few inches. As my grandmother would say, “A tall drink of water.”

My son notices him, too, and he says (shouts), “Who is that?” He is at an age where he is following sports, and he knows the names of many of the players, courtesy of Sports Illustrated for Kids.  

The gentleman is about 25 feet away from me, and as I study him for a moment, it becomes fairly clear to me who he is. It’s Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Now, I have reached the age in my life where I have moved past the starry-eyed fan stage. I certainly appreciate the accomplishments of athletes, but I am also conscious of the fact that they are just people. When I have met athletes and celebrities in the past, I try to talk with them like they are regular individuals.

When Kevin Durant goes to a concert, he probably wants to enjoy the concert.

My son tugs at my arm and asks again who it is. I tell him. The following conversation ensues:

Son: Can I go ask him for an autograph?

Me: No.

Son: Why not?

Me: Because.

Son: Can I have your phone and go take a picture of him up close?

Me: No.

Son: Why not?

Me (in answer-a-question-with-a-question mode): Why do you suppose Mr. Durant came to the concert tonight?

Son: To give me an autograph?

Wrong answer, son.

When I was a younger person, I was once at brunch with my family. Brian Bosworth, then of the Seattle Seahawks, was at a table nearby. At the time, he was the biggest thing in Seattle and fans actually thought he would have a successful career.

Something told me that he would not appreciate a teenage boy going up to him in a restaurant and asking for an autograph. So, I came up with a brilliant plan. I sent my cute little sister to get the autograph for me. Genius.

Looking back, I probably should have left Mr. Bosworth alone to enjoy his brunch.

At the concert, I employed the philosophy of letting the professional athlete be a normal person for once, much to my son’s chagrin. Let the man enjoy some music without being mobbed.

See, I know my son. He has no fear, and most of the time, I appreciate that character trait. If I had given him permission, he would have slipped through the entourage and asked Mr. Durant for an autograph and a photo.

I did agree to take a picture of Durant so that my son would have some “proof” for his pals that the NBA superstar was indeed there. Thanks to modern technology, the photo is a grainy, poorly lit picture from a camera phone with the flash turned off. Oh, and it is basically a picture of the side of Durant’s head.

Can you spot Durant? It’s like a less fun page from Where’s Waldo?

As the concert was winding down, I saw Durant and his small entourage slip back out of the seats and disappear into the night. My glum son saw it, too, as his hopes of getting an autograph were dashed.

A few others that also recognized Durant snapped a few photos as he made his escape, and he gave a friendly wave. I could almost read my son’s thoughts as he pondered whether he would be allowed to chase after the NBA star. Needless to say, my son did not ask.

I hope you enjoyed the concert, Mr. Durant. I kept my son at bay for you.