Marcus Smart pulled a less volatile “Ron Artest” Saturday, shockingly shoving a Texas Tech fan in the stands, a violation that has cost him a three-game suspension.
The Oklahoma State star, a projected top 10 NBA draft selection, apologized for shoving Jeff Orr, a Waco air traffic controller, who admitted to calling Smart “a piece of crap.” The drama unfolded when Smart tried to block Jaye Crockett’s dunk from behind with 6.2 seconds to go, but stumbled out of bounds behind the basket.
As he was being helped up, he heard Orr and confronted him, pushing him back with two hands. Orr, who has apologized for his role, did not fall down. Smart then walked away, pointing back in the fan’s direction. Officials assessed a technical foul but did not eject him, and he remained on the bench until the final buzzer.
“I want to apologize to the fan, whose name is Jeff Orr. I want to apologize to him. I want to apologize to my teammates, to my coaching staff, coach [Travis] Ford, my family, Oklahoma State University. This is not how I [conduct] myself, this is not how this program is ran. This is not how I was raised. I let my emotions get the best of me.
“Just can’t let that happen again. This is a lesson I’ll have to learn from. The consequences that are coming with it, I’m taking full responsibility. No finger pointing. This is all upon me.
“I just want to really apologize to those that are very important to me. I feel like I let my teammates down. These guys mean a lot to me. Not to be able to be out there with them, it hits me in my heart. I have a lot of people that look up to me, a lot of little kids, so once again, I truly apologize. This is not me. I really do apologize for it. Like I said, I take full responsibility and the consequences that come with it.”
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement: “Mr. Smart’s actions were a clear violation of the Big 12 Conference’s Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct Policy. Such behavior has no place in athletics, and will not be tolerated. I appreciate the efforts of Oklahoma State University athletics director Mike Holder in addressing this matter, and believe this is an appropriate response to an inappropriate action.”
Artest, now known as Metta World Peace of the New York Knicks, attacked a fan at The Palace of Auburn Hills when he was with Indiana Pacers several years ago and pummeled him. He was suspended for an entire season by the NBA. He said of Smart’s situation:
“Just in general, I heard the kid is pretty good and a potential pro,” World Peace said Sunday. “So those types of challenges on the court when you’re playing and fans are rooting against you — that was a great lesson learned, so that hopefully when he does become a pro, he’ll be able to kind of withstand the fans that are rooting against him on the road. … I think that emotion and that fire could be directed towards winning on the court instead of directed other ways.”
Orr said in a statement: “I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere apologies to Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, Tubby Smith and the Texas Tech Men’s Basketball program. My actions last night were inappropriate and do not reflect myself or Texas Tech– a university I love dearly. I regret calling Mr. Smart a ‘piece of crap’ but I want to make it known that I did not use a racial slur of any kind. Additionally, I would like to offer my apologies to Texas Tech fans that have been embarrassed by the attention this incident has created.”