Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson says ‘malicious’ fan crossed a line during San Antonio Spurs game

The Sixth Man of the Year acknowledges “taking a step” toward a fan who crossed the line with his words and tried to entice him into a fight, but he ultimately realized he had too much to lose.

Utah Jazz's Jordan Clarkson (00) is defended by San Antonio Spurs' Jakob Poeltl during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec. 27, 2021, in San Antonio. The Jazz won 110-104. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson has a reputation as one of the chillest guys in the NBA. So a situation has really deteriorated if he’s considering trying to get into the stands to go after a fan.

Such was the case deep into the Jazz’s 110-104 victory in Clarkson’s hometown of San Antonio on Monday night.

Clarkson had been having a back-and-forth with a couple of courtside fans throughout the game — one pretty light-hearted, the other increasingly antagonistic. Then during a fourth-quarter timeout, things seemed to escalate, with the latter uttering some words that Clarkson deemed to “cross the line,” and apparently challenging him to a fight, prompting the guard to take a few steps toward the crowd before some teammates intervened and pulled him back to the bench.

AT&T Center security wound up removing the fan.

“He just kept saying stuff, kept saying stuff. Throughout the whole game,” Clarkson said afterward. “I usually have playful dialogue with people in the stands, people who are courtside. Another guy was there doing the same thing, but [with him] I knew it wasn’t harmful. A timeout happened, and the [first] guy keeps antagonizing me. He almost challenges me, like, ‘What you gonna do?’ after saying a bunch of stuff.”

Clarkson kept reiterating the difference between the two fans, noting that with the jovial one, they had a friendly discourse going, but with the other, the situation kept getting increasingly heated, eventually prompting the reigning Sixth Man of the Year to decide he’d had enough.

“I was walking away initially, and then he said something again. I turned back around and then he said it again. I’m just like, ‘What’s going on?’” Clarkson said. “Literally, there was a guy sitting next to him the whole game saying stuff, doing stuff, but I knew it was playful — me and him kept winking at each other. But this guy was just a little too malicious with whatever he was saying. At one point I kinda just blacked out and was taking a step towards him.”

In his postgame media session, he still seemed a bit in disbelief about it all.

While he said he expects and loves fans to be passionate, he equated this situation to a dissatisfied customer going behind the counter at a McDonald’s and berating and trying to fight the poor kid who makes the fries.

“We’re playing basketball, having a good time — fans gotta learn we’re human, we’re people too. Stuff like that just can’t fly. Especially on an NBA floor, where guys are doing their job,” Clarkson said. “… Keep nagging, keep nagging, then challenge, ‘What you gonna do?’ There’s no room for that. We come here to entertain, play basketball, compete, put on a show. We’re not trying to deal with fans being too drunk or being whatever at the games, trying to start anything.”

Clarkson said that as the confrontation worsened, and he got to the point of considering going into the crowd to confront the fan, he had to keep reminding himself that he had much more to lose than the fan did, should a “Malice at the Palace”-type situation ensue.

“I’m gonna lose more money than he’s gonna lose. He’s probably just gonna get kicked out of the game [at worst],” Clarkson said. “… I don’t want no problems with nobody. I’m in the league, I make a lot of money. He ain’t gonna lose no money, I’m gonna end up losing a lot of money, be sitting out games. I could lose a [million]. I could put that in my daughter’s pocket. She could go buy a Bugatti or something if she wants to.”

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