AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty
The NBA has long grappled with how to manage player interactions with fans. But what happens when the fan owns one of the teams? After Sunday night, Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic wants to know.
Who is he? The Serbian native is the starting center for the Nuggets, and is a two-time NBA MVP.
- Jokic was on fire in Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, scoring a career-high 53 points in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals.
- The Suns ultimately won 129-124, leaving the series tied 2-2.
What’s the big deal? Jokic has dominated headlines since that game, but not for his scoring.
- In the second quarter of Sunday’s game, the ball went out into the courtside seats and landed in the hands of Suns owner Mat Ishbia. Jokic rushed to retrieve the ball, and in a momentary struggle it was sent further into the crowd.
- Jokic could then be seen giving Ishbia a slight shove with his elbow, who sent his arms up in a shocked fashion and fell back into his seat (you can judge for yourself if you think he “flopped”.)
- Jokic was given a technical foul for the encounter, and has fueled hundreds of takes within the Sports Media Op-ed Vortex ™.
What are people saying? Everything and anything, it seems. The basketball world is staunchly divided.
Here’s what Jokic had to say about it after the game:
The fan put their hands on me first. I thought the league was supposed to protect us, but maybe I’m wrong.
Not me as a person, I mean as a player. I know he’s an owner but he’s a fan, isn’t he? Whoever he is, he cannot influence the game by holding the ball.
I think he’s supposed to get kicked out if he’s influencing the game.
Ishbia tweeted on Monday about a possible suspension or fine for Jokic:
Great win for the Suns last night in an amazing series so far!
That should be and is the only story. Suspending or fining anyone over last nights incident would not be right. I have alot of respect for Jokic and don’t want to see anything like that. Excited for game 5! Go Suns!
— Mat Ishbia (@Mishbia15) May 8, 2023
Refereeing crew chief Tony Brothers after the game:
Jokic came to get the ball, grabbed it away from the fan, then after that he deliberately gave him a shove and pushed him down, so he was issued an unsportsmanlike technical foul.
Nuggets head coach Michael Malone on the issue:
[Jokic] is going to get the ball, and some fan was holding the ball like he wants to be part of the game … They deemed Nikola doing something that was excessive, I guess, and they gave him a tech, but I still don’t really understand it.
I don’t give a s*** [that it was Ishbia]. I really don’t care.
TNT broadcasters just asked: Will Nikola Jokic be suspended for Game 5?
Team execs are wondering this too since the rule book says a player should be ejected for entering the stands. Jokic technically just went courtside so there’s room for interpretation. We’ll find out Monday. pic.twitter.com/8jBYdKgSOy
— Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) May 8, 2023
What will the league do before Game 5 in Denver? Jokic, clearly, shoved a fan – and not any fan, but the guy who just bought the Suns! Not that that should matter, but…of course it will matter. How much is the question.
— David Aldridge (@davidaldridgedc) May 8, 2023
Want more on basketball? Listen to Consider This on how women’s basketball is having a moment.
So, what now?