Early on Sunday afternoon, the Indiana Pacers secured an easy win over the Portland Trail Blazers, 129-98. With the Pacers already eliminated from playoff contention, and the Blazers tanking to try and get there themselves, there wasn’t much to discuss from this one.
That is, until a video surfaced of a postgame incident involving Trail Blazers big man Jusuf Nurkic — currently sidelined due to plantar fasciitis — and a Pacers fan. Following the final buzzer, Nurkic made his way over to a group of fans sitting courtside. He stared one of them down, grabbed the fans’ phone and tossed it away. Nurkic then walked off without saying anything.
It’s not clear what the fan said or did to upset Nurkic, and because the big man is out injured he did not address the media. Whatever it was must have crossed a line, however, because it’s hard to imagine a player snatching a fans’ phone over a basic insult or taunt.
In any case, this is the latest high-profile incident involving fans and players this season. A fan was ejected for slapping Rajon Rondo’s hand away from his face during a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns; LeBron James had two fans ejected for vulgar comments in a matchup with the Pacers; a fan in Philadelphia was ejected and banned from Wells Fargo Center for life for calling Carmelo Anthony, ‘boy.’ Furthermore, Russell Westbrook has spoken in recent weeks about how constant trash talk and name-calling by fans — both in the arena and on social media — has affected his family.
Fans routinely cross the line, and it’s completely understandable why players eventually get fed up with the nonsense. At the same time, the NBA will not be happy about Nurkic grabbing the fans’ phone. He will likely end up facing a fine of some sort once the league gets to the bottom of the situation.