Marcus Smart of the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team was a preseason All-American after deciding to not enter the NBA draft for one more season in college. Smart was in the news Saturday night, but not for his play, rather his antics.
In the closing seconds of what would eventually be a 65-61 loss at the hands of Texas Tech, Smart was involved in an altercation with a fan. After running down the floor to try and contest a shot, his momentum carried him into the stands. When he got up, he turned to the fan, which was identified as Jeff Orr, exchanged a word or two and then shoved him. Smart was whistled for a technical foul, but was not ejected from the contest. Orr, who is a diehard Texas Tech fan, allegedly used a racial slur towards Smart, which set the young guard off.
This will be a hot topic of conversation in the college basketball world, as well as the overall sports world. Who was right and who was wrong? What should happen from here on out? Will this hurt Smart’s NBA draft stock?
First off, fans are entitled to cheer for whoever they want when they purchase a ticket. With that said, they don’t have the right to chant and say whatever they feel. Just because you have the right to cheer, it doesn’t give you the right to be ignorant with what you are cheering or saying to the players. If Smart was correct in that Orr called him the “n” word, the fan shouldn’t be allowed back for a couple of games, at least.
Now you have the issue with Smart, his actions were indeed out of line, but how far? Players on any level should know to never put their hands on the fans, just look at the Malice at the Palace incident involving then Ron Artest. The fact that Orr allegedly used a racial slur towards Smart is sickening in its own right. Smart will likely be suspended and rightfully so, but at that moment in time, Smart thought he was justified in shoving Orr. By no means is it acceptable of a player to put their hands on a fan, no matter what. However, there are a few factors we have to put in the scenario.
Oklahoma State has lost four in a row and five of its past six games, which would be frustrating for players and coaches worldwide. Frustrations build throughout the season in every single sport and sometimes rationale isn’t used. Smart is a young player full of emotion, wanting to succeed. He is obviously frustrated he and his squad can’t seem to find the winning touch as of late. Granted, not an excuse for what he did, but there are times when people get caught up in the moment and don’t think properly. This is a case that fits that situation to a tee. Also, when someone says something disrespectful to a young person, in this case a racial slur, that young person is likely going to respond in some fashion.
As far as Smart’s NBA draft stock, he will be just fine. Sure, his character issues will be closely looked at, as this isn’t the first time Smart has been in the news for blowing up. After playing poorly against West Virginia a couple weeks ago, Smart took his frustrations out on a chair by kicking it repeatedly. Those kinds of things happen nearly every basketball game in some manner. A former NBA General Manager, who now serves as a talent scout, said Smart will likely still be a top-10 overall pick.
Jalen Rose said on NBA Countdown on ABC that if in fact Orr used a racial slur, he’s lucky he didn’t get the “two-piece” from Smart. That wouldn’t have been any better for Smart, and would essentially be worse. The kid is young and is frustrated, which still doesn’t give him the right to put his hands on a fan. At the same time, put yourself in the shoes of Smart and think about how you might react. Marcus Smart made a not-so-smart decision and will suffer whatever consequences Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby decides upon. This doesn’t make Smart a bad player or bad person, just a young guy who made a mistake after taking offense to what was said to him.