Philadelphia fans are known to be brutal. Throwing snow balls at Santa Claus, booing their franchise players, and cheering when opposing players get injured are just several infamous occasions in which the City of Brotherly Love didn't live up to its name.
But that's nothing compared to some of the disgusting fans in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Last season, Derek Fisher was a hero in Utah. His eleven-month-old daughter, Tatum, had just been diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare type of eye cancer. She had needed an emergency three-hour surgery and chemotherapy at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Choosing to be with her during surgery, Fisher wasn't sure he would be able to attend Game 2 of the team's second-round series against the Golden State Warriors. Upon landing back in Salt Lake City following the surgery, Fisher got the news that Jazz starting point guard Deron Williams was in foul trouble and his backup, Dee Brown, was seriously injured during the early stages of the game. Fisher knew he had to be there for his team.
He arrived at the stadium during the third quarter and was given a standing ovation. Fans and players alike were showing him a lot of respect and it was a feel-good moment as a sports fan. Fisher later hit a shot that sent the game into overtime, allowing the Jazz to ultimately win the game.
After the Jazz were knocked out of the playoffs in the Western Conference Finals by the San Antonio Spurs, Fisher talked to management and asked to be released. He knew he couldn't keep flying to New York or Los Angeles from Utah to get his daughter treatment. He needed a situation that allowed him to play close to a treatment center so he could be there for his team and family, not have to choose and miss time like he did throughout the 2008 playoffs.
After weighing his options, he decided to return to the Lakers in Los Angeles, where he was drafted in 1996 and played for eight seasons before signing with the Warriors in 2004. He became the team's starting point guard and a mentor for the Lakers' young guards: Jordan Farmar, Javaris Crittenton, and Coby Karl, who had only one year of NBA experience combined.
Midway through the season, Los Angeles traded for Pau Gasol and became an instant favorite in the Western Conference. The Lakers went on to finish the regular season with 57 wins for the top seed in the Western Conference. After a sweep of the Denver Nuggets in the first round, Los Angeles' next opponent was the Utah Jazz.
Crossing an unwelcoming old path
Los Angeles won the first two games of the series in the Staples Center thanks to the Lakers' home-court advantage. Then things got nasty.
Leading in the series, 2-0, the Lakers arrived in Salt Lake City on May 9 and, as they took the court, boos filled the stadium for Derek Fisher. Had they forgotten everything he had done for their team? Didn't they realize why he had to leave and what he was going through? But the story doesn't end there.
Utah won Game 3, but in Game 4, things got worse.
As Derek Fisher went to the line to shoot a free throw after a technical foul, a fan behind the basket covered his right eye and began screaming at the Lakers point guard.
"It's a classless, immature grown man who represents the majority of Utah fans," said Lakers fan Matt Azzam, 20, after seeing the picture. "Like all teams, there are some rowdy fans, but Jazz fans cross the limits. They don't realize [Jazz owner Larry] Miller let Fisher go from his contract and that he made the move to L.A. for his family."
When shown the picture, some Jazz fans were also embarrassed. Jordan Raygoza, 17, said, "Of course [it's crossing the line], because it's a personal matter for Fisher and he did a lot for Utah last year through his problems."
This isn't all, though. Several fans who attended the game have said that some Jazz fans were chanting "cancer" over and over again when Fisher touched the ball or shot free throws.
"If it is true, and the fans did chant 'cancer,' it is absolutely heartless of them," Azzam said.
"There is a moral boundary that anyone with common sense should know and not cross, and the Jazz fans obviously don't have any regard for Derek Fisher, his family (especially his daughter), and anyone who has suffered from cancer. To make a mockery of such a life-threatening issue is 100 percent morally wrong, and there is no justification for it."
Implications and history
For a group of people to chant something so insensitive is just disgusting to me. What if Derek Fisher's daughter had been in attendance at the game? How would she feel when she sees people covering their eyes and screaming or hearing the chants of cancer?
"It's a pretty disgraceful thing to do and I'm sad to be a fellow Jazz fan," Raygoza said.
This isn't the first time something like this has happened in Utah, either. Last year, during the Golden State series that I talked about earlier, fans apparently shouted racist comments at African-American players on the Warriors.
Talking about the difference between playing at home compared to on the road during the series against the Jazz, Warriors forward Stephen Jackson said, "Well, we're not hearing racial slurs, we're not hearing people wishing for me to go to jail. That's the difference for me. I'm loved here in Oakland."
Jason Richardson said he and his teammates were caught off-guard by the slurs.
"That was something new. It shocked all of us," he said. "We weren't expecting that. I mean, [Jazz fans] were trying to get into our heads any way they can, but I couldn't believe anybody would stoop that low. It's nonsense."
Whether it's taunting a life-threatening illness or lobbing racial slurs, the Utah Jazz have some very disturbing fans. For someone to be able to chant and yell things like that and still feel alright with themselves is sickening.
"In all my years as a sports fan, yes this is [the most disgusting display of character]," Azzam said.
"Being an avid baseball fan, I've seen syringes being thrown on the field. Being an avid Lakers fan, I've seen signs made about Kobe being a rapist. That's fine, but when you bring up something that Fisher had no control over and make a joke out of it, it's disgusting. The Utah Jazz organization needs to come out and release an official apology to the family of Derek Fisher."
And while these fans think they are helping their team, they're actually giving the Lakers' players and fans motivation to beat them.
"It would bring ultimate satisfaction to close this series up in Utah and shove it up the crowd's ass," Azzam said. "I've got respect for the Jazz players, but the crowd has absolutely no respect from me. I would give almost anything to end this series in Game 6 with a purple-and-gold ass-whopping."
Basketball is just a game, but what some fans of the Utah Jazz are doing goes beyond the scope of the 94-foot court. These are truly the most disgusting fans in the NBA, and it sickens me that there are people actually like this in the world.
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