Lakers' LeBron James on Recent Fan Incidents: Keep Protecting Players

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 28, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James dribbles the ball against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of Game 1 of their NBA basketball first-round playoff series Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James called for the NBA to keep doing all it can to protect its players in the wake of numerous incidents involving fans this week.

Reporters asked James on Thursday if the NBA is doing enough to protect players, and he responded:  "Absolutely. There's been enough done to protect the players, but we got to continue to do that."

On Wednesday, when Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook was heading to the locker room after suffering an injury during Game 2 of the first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, a fan dumped popcorn on him, which made Westbrook irate:

Derek Bodner @DerekBodnerNBA

Fan dumping his popcorn on Russell Westbrook, who's walking off after twisting his ankle. Fan should be banned for life. No room for this. pic.twitter.com/DXatcX8l9i

The Sixers announced Thursday they have banned the fan from attending home games indefinitely and revoked his season ticket.

The Westbrook incident was one of many situations involving fans during the first week of the NBA playoffs.

During Game 2 of the New York Knicks vs. Atlanta Hawks series, a fan in Madison Square Garden seemingly attempted to spit on Hawks guard Trae Young. The following day, the Knicks released a statement on the fan:

"We investigated the matter and determined that this patron, who is not a season ticket holder, did indeed spit on Trae Young, and for that reason, he is now banned from The Garden indefinitely. We apologize to Trae and the entire Atlanta Hawks organization for this fan's behavior. This was completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our venue. We have turned the information over to the appropriate authorities."

On Thursday, the Utah Jazz banned three fans for allegedly making racist and sexual remarks toward the family of Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant.

James praised the 76ers, Knicks and Jazz for taking swift action against the offending fans.

After fans were not allowed to attend games during the latter part of last season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, teams welcomed them back on a limited basis and in varying levels of attendance in 2020-21.

Many teams have increased their capacity during the playoffs, coinciding with an increase in instances of fan misconduct.

It's a positive that the NBA's biggest star is happy with how the league and its teams are handling things, but it remains to be seen if the bans will prevent further incidents.