If you like your NBA with a side of WWE, then Friday’s Memphis-Los Angeles Lakers game was for you.
If you prefer your NBA game focus on the on-court matchup featuring Ja Morant and LeBron James, the Grizzlies’ winning streak and James’ pursuit of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record, then the game wasn’t for you.
The main takeaway from Friday’s game between the two teams wasn’t Los Angeles’ 122-121 victory, ending Memphis’ 11-game winning streak and James now trailing Abdul-Jabbar by 260 points.
It was the dustup between members of the Grizzlies, Ja Morant’s dad, Tee, and Shannon Sharpe, the Fox Sports commentator and Pro Football Hall of Famer.
The incident began at halftime when Sharpe began jawing at Memphis’ Dillon Brooks, who barked back. Grizzlies center Steven Adams walked toward Sharpe as security, team staffers and referees acted as a buffer between Sharpe and Grizzlies players. Ja Morant entered the fray as did Ja’s dad, Tee, and Sharpe and Tee Morant continued the back-and-forth as players left the court.
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In a brief interview with ESPN at halftime, Sharpe said: “They didn’t want this smoke, Dave. They do that talking and jockeying and I ain’t about that jockeying. It started with Dillon Brooks. I said he was too small to guard LeBron. He said, ‘(expletive) me. I said, ‘(expletive) you’ back. He started to come (at) me and I said, ‘You don’t want these problems.’ And then Ja came out of nowhere talking. He definitely didn’t want these problems. Then the dad came and he obviously didn’t want no problems. But I wanted anything they had. Don’t let these fools fool you now.”
Sharpe and Tee Morant reconciled, and all is good between them. The elder Morant has been a nuisance at games before, but in general, he has a good spirit about him and has said repeatedly he is there to support his son. After the game, Tee Morant tweeted, “up the chimney,” letting everyone know where that smoke went.
With that said, Sharpe should not have been allowed to return to his seat after causing the disturbance. If it had been any other fan, they would’ve been ejected. I get he’s a well-known person and of course, he is treated differently. But he had no business instigating and escalating the incident.
Turn it around: Had this person been jawing at James like that, they would not have been allowed to return to their seat for violating the league’s fan code of conduct which is printed and placed at courtside seats at every NBA game.
Allowing Sharpe to remain set a bad precedent, and it won’t surprise me if the Lakers hear from NBA headquarters.
ESPN play-by-play announcer Mike Breen chimed in with the most reasonable analysis: “It’s just silly.”
Silly indeed. The occasional pettiness is fine. It happens. But the NBA more than any other North American pro sports league seems to thrive on it to the detriment of the league.
I realize this sounds like an old grump, but as someone who is far more interested in the actual game, the NBA can do with less pettiness.