HOLDAT: How to Deal With Crazy NBA Fans

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In the latest episode of the HOLDAT podcast, Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson discuss how to deal with NBA fans following Russell Westbrook’s confrontation in Utah. Booz also shares some fan experiences from his playing days with Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah.

(Listen to the latest HOLDAT podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Carlos Boozer: We had an early exit this week for a team that I thought would go a little further in OKC. I was watching Game 6 out there in Utah and the fans out there… Listen, I played there and they were great to me but I heard stories from teammates and how some of the fans can react to them and apparently a couple of fans were heckling Russell Westbrook most of the game and said some rude things. So as he is walking off the court after losing in Game 6 to the Jazz, a fan was saying things to him and recording him and he snapped basically. Tried to the grab the camera I believe and said a couple words to him. Nate, I don’t know if you have any more information, I didn’t see what the fan was saying to him but Nate talk about some of these fans. You remember the brawl up there in Detroit against Indiana?

Nate Robinson: I just sent that clip to Jermaine O’Neal (laughs).

Boozer: That was a crazy thing when a fan threw a bottle on Ron Artest’s head and the next thing, a brawl broke out and people were going into the stands. You never want athletes and fans intertwined, mixing and getting into a brawl like that, but it has happened at different times in the NBA. Nate, tell the people a little about that. Sometimes these fans can go a little too far and forget that players are human beings. 

Robinson: You have to imagine we have mixed emotions after losing a game especially when you are getting smacked when you know you should be winning. You feel like you didn’t do enough. You are emotional and your temper is high. You really feel some type of way. Especially Russ, a guy who plays with a lot of energy and passion and brings everything to the table, he has so much grit and fire behind him, that is one of the wrong guys to be heckling on the way out. I saw the clip, I just laughed because I know how bad Russ wanted to win and how bad he wanted to snatch that phone and break it.

You have to have tunnel vision. You have to put your blinders on. He just needs to have that tunnel vision man and keep it pushing because people are going to blow it out of proportion like they do. Fans have to understand that us athletes are just as human as you—besides LeBron James, the alien. It’s tough when your emotions are at a high level and you just lost a game and were knocked out of the playoffs. I know Russ wanted to say more crazy things but you guys have to respect the fact that, that we are out there giving our all. It’s hard to take a loss when you know you should have won.

Boozer: I think there is a fine line. I agree with what you said, Nate, as far as Russell should be a little more careful because of who he is. But man some of these fans cross the line. I remember talking to Kobe (Bryant) and he was telling me when he came into the league and was on the road somewhere, maybe Sacramento or somewhere else but he was on the road and he is dapping up all the fans and giving them high fives as he walks out and one of the fans threw a spitball in his hands, dapped up Kobe with the spitball in his palm.

Robinson: I would have snatched that fan!

Boozer: Kobe was like, “What!?” So after that from then on out, he only gave everyone daps as he walked away because that is some nasty stuff to be doing. That is just disgusting. Dude really did a spitball and dapped up Kobe Bean Bryant on the way out, bro. 

Robinson: I won’t even lie, I would have spit in my hands and shook the next person’s hand to pass it down. Because you going to pass these germs to me? I am going to pay it forward to the next person. 

Boozer: Eww…

Robinson: (Laughs).

Boozer: I remember being down here in Miami with the Bulls and we were playing the Heat in the playoffs and I just remember some fan going at Joakim Noah, talking about his mom and all this and Joakim was livid. He wanted to go up in the stands and go at him. You have to remember, mama jokes is cool when it is just jokes, but mama jokes ain’t funny when it is real and you are trying to go at somebody and distract them. Some of these fans cross that line and forget that we are human beings at the end of the day. I am not going to just sit there and have you talk about my mom and my family, about my kids or my wife. There is a time and a place for that. Some of these fans need to realize that talking all that noise could get you hurt. I am not trying to condone violence, but sometimes they cross that line and go too far. I remember Joakim was livid and it took him off his game a little bit. He was so hot at that fan he just wanted to go handle some business. 

Robinson: Fans used to call me Gary Coleman. I used to look at them like, “Damn, that hurt my feelings.” 

Boozer: (Laughs).

Robinson: That was mean, but I didn’t care. I used to go out there and give them 30. Every time they yelled Gary Coleman! I was giving them buckets like, “What you talkin’ bout Willis?”

Boozer: That’s what I did too. When I went on the road and the fans be booing, I was like “Man, y’all just cheering me on because my homies call me Booz anyway.” Go out there and get my 30 and 20 (laughs).

Robinson: That was a good one. BOOOOO! 

Boozer: Keep booing me! Take these HOLDAT’s! I think at the end of the day there has to be some balance between when you walking off the court and fans are getting at you, talking out their neck. You have to have blinders on like Nate said and keep walking. Fans just be careful with what you say. 

Robinson: Fans please be reckless because I am going to be using your jokes against you. Fans will be fans.

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