The dickweed Jazz fan who heckled Russell Westbrook until Westbrook threatened to kick both his ass and the ass of his wife has been permanently banned from Utah’s home arena. That’s fair and appropriate, but a lingering consequence of Monday’s exchange is an ongoing public discussion about the very shitty reputation of Utah’s home crowd among NBA players and NBA knowers.
Donovan Mitchell, arguably Utah’s most important young player, referenced the crowd’s behavior in a statement, saying Monday’s incident was “not the first time something like this has happened in our arena” and describing himself as “personally hurt” by it:
Bill Simmons, the Sports Fella himself, talked about Utah’s reputation among players for nasty fan behavior, in his most recent podcast. Around the uncomfortable noise of Ryen Russillo blubbering about the incident becoming “a race issue” and Westbrook “looking to fight with everyone all the time,” Simmons had this to say about Utah’s fans:
The big picture takeaway of this is that Utah has, their fans have the worst reputations in the league for doing this stuff. And if you talk to anyone around the NBA it’s like, “what’s the worst place to play?” It’s like, “Utah, ‘cause they’ll yell shit at you and they get super personal.” And that’s—everybody says that, it’s not, this is not one of those things where it’s like “Simmons accuses,” like, whatever, I could see the terrible blog posts being written. It’s just a fact! Go ask anyone in basketball what’s the worst place to play, they’ll say Utah.
With this conversation once again swirling around the Jazz, owner Gail Miller—easily one of the NBA’s most private, hands-off owners, to her credit—stood at center court Thursday night and read a prepared statement imploring Jazz fans to express their fandom without resorting to the nastiness that has sullied their reputation:
The concern over excessive heckling is such that league took the unusual step this week of asking teams to put their jumbotrons to use sharing public service announcements reminding spectators of arena codes of conduct:
Miller’s public statement does better than a pre-recorded arena video, but time will tell whether it makes the slightest difference. Either way, I’m very much looking forward to James Dolan shooting and airing a public service announcement video telling Knicks fans to go fuck themselves.