For the fourth time already in the NBA Playoffs, the conversation after Sunday night’s Nets-Celtics game was not about what happened during the game itself, but a fan crossing the line with a player or their family. After Russell Westbrook had popcorn dumped on him in Philadelphia, Trae Young was spat at in New York, and Ja Morant’s family dealt with racist attacks in Utah, Kyrie Irving had a water bottle thrown at his head by a Celtics fan after the Nets win in Boston in Game 4.
The incident sparked further discussion of the fan-player dynamic in stadiums, one that has been on display across the various incidents this postseason amid the backdrop of arenas being opened to near-full capacity again. Kevin Durant called out the fan in his postgame press conference, as did Charles Barkley on Inside the NBA following the game. While the fans in Philly, New York, and Utah were given bans from those three arenas for their actions, the fan who threw the bottle at Irving faces something far more severe, as ESPN reported that he has been arrested and charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
According to Boston Police, a witness says the suspect — 21-year-old Cole Buckley of Braintree, Massachusetts — threw a Dasani water bottle at Irving. Buckley is charged with assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon and will be arraigned Tuesday in Boston Municipal Court.
That this incident came after Irving publicly noted his concerns about how he’ll be received in Boston, noting that he hopes there won’t be any racist comments directed at he or his teammates, only serves to validate his worries entering this weekend’s set of games. That the fan is facing legal consequences beyond being banned from the arena will hopefully create a greater deterrent for others in recognizing that throwing things at players is not just crossing the line but is grounds for charges to possibly be pressed against you.