The Future for Fans

Debate student’s opinion essay from Ms. Habig’s Debate class.


Ben Butler, Student

On February 7th, 2023, at the age of 38, Lebron James hit a midrange fadeaway against the Oklahoma City Thunder to become the NBA’s all-time scoring leader. He had worked tirelessly for the past 20 years of his professional career to obtain one of, if not, the highest achievement one can achieve in this league. Now I don’t really have any strong opinions one way or another about James, but as someone who appreciates and loves the game of basketball, I was so excited to witness such a decorated and achieved player reach heights nobody could have dreamed of. I opened Twitter and TikTok expecting to see others who love the game just like I do, be just as excited to see this record that had been held for 38 years be shattered. I should have known better. The replies and comments were filled top to bottom with supposed “fans” of this sport spewing nothing but insults and hate toward a man who frankly deserves better. My question to these fans is “Do you even like the NBA?”

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a fan as “an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator.” These are the people who are meant to support and uplift the players and teams that they have dedicated countless time and money to. So why is so much of the dialogue surrounding these players so negative? Alex Kennedy, a reporter from basketballnewsdaily reports on a study done on Twitter regarding this topic. The results showed that the biggest stars of the NBA are the ones who also received the most hate. Four-time champion and two-time MVP, Steph Curry received the most of this online hate, with 27.9% of all tweets about him having a negative connotation. For these players, the more success they obtain, the more people turn against them.

Contrary to popular belief, this harassment doesn’t just magically disappear after leaving the depths of Twitter, it’s just as prevalent in real life. Chatham News + Record lists many examples of this mistreatment carried onto in-person games. Russell Westbrook, who at the time was playing for the Washington Wizards had suffered an ankle injury that took him out of the game. While limping back to the locker room, he had popcorn dumped on his head and was verbally assaulted by opposing fans. The families of these players aren’t safe from being attacked either because in 2021 an Indiana Pacers fan had to be ejected from a game because she told Lebron James that she “hoped his son died in a car accident.” This type of behavior from grown adults shows the complete lack of maturity that goes into the actions of some NBA fans.

Moreover, while it’s true that the competitive nature of basketball invites competition and brings out the passion in fans, it goes too far when players are personally victimized. So often is the bad behavior of NBA fans excused by this passion. But wouldn’t it be better to support the players that make the game what it is.

It seems like these fans, know that there is a degree of separation between them and the players. They can say whatever they want online or even in person and face little to no consequences. But this doesn’t hold the same for the players, when they address the fans directly, they’re labeled as “too caught up in the media” but when they don’t talk back, they’re labeled as “soft.” It seems like it’s impossible to win in these people’s eyes.

Lastly, I know it seems confusing as to why I would feel the need to stick up for millionaires who play a game for a living, but these games are the livelihoods of athletes. Many of these players come from much tougher backgrounds than the people who pay thousands of dollars to watch and berate them. Much of the money earned from their contracts goes toward bettering the communities they come from. Lebron, in particular, has built a public school while funding tens of millions of dollars for his hometown of Akron. But according to bots on Twitter, actually, none of these actions matter because he beats their favorite team every night.

In conclusion, fans of the NBA need to change their actions and the negative dialogue they create regarding the players of their league. There have been too many examples of this verbal abuse leading to on-court altercations. By creating a more positive sports environment maybe we can learn to better appreciate the game that we’re so passionate about.