Game three of the 2019 NBA Finals was played between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, June 5, 2019. Toronto won that game 123-109 to take a 2-1 lead in the best of 7 series behind a 30-point performance from Kawhi Leonard. Stephen Curry did all he could for Golden State by posting a playoff career high of 47 points, but the next day sports headlines were dominated by a significant sideline incident during this game.
Raptors point guard, Kyle Lowry, dove into the first row or two of court-side seats in an attempt to save a ball heading out of bounds. He crashed into the fans pretty hard in a strong effort to make a gutsy play and the majority of the fans in that section tried to help him up aside from one individual, Mark Stevens.
Stevens happens to be a part owner/investor for the Warriors but this didn’t prevent him behaving badly. He shoved Lowry as he was getting up to his feet and apparently had some choice words involving obscene language as well. The Raptor’s guard showed extreme restraint by not putting his hands on the aggressor of the altercation and the minority owner was immediately ejected from the game.
The National Basketball Association was expected to send a stern message in reaction to the incident and they did just that. Stevens was fined $500,000 and banned for the remainder of the 2019 NBA Finals as well as the entire next year (2019-2020 season). That includes all Warriors team functions not just the attendance of basketball games. In this day and age, one has to expect a heavy consequence for such behavior exhibited on national television, but some people wanted him to be banned for life and lose his stake in the franchise. NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, thought the punishment fit the crime as he is the one who has the final say in the matter.
Lowry demonstrated a great deal of self-control by handling the situation in the best manner possible according to most observers and considering other players may have likely pushed the guy back in the heat of the moment. It was obvious that the Raptor’s starter wanted Stevens ejected and never allowed back in the stadium ever again as he immediately pleaded his case with officials on the court.
Lowry’s Reaction to the Incident:
“He’s not a good look for the ownership group they have,” Lowry proclaims prior to the ban. “… A guy like that, showing his true class, he shouldn’t be a part of our league. There’s just no place for that.”
Lowry states: “I was furious, I’m not going to lie.”
“I don’t think there is any reason,” says Lowry. “For me personally, I don’t know him. I don’t care to know him. He showed his true colors at the time. A guy like that shouldn’t be a part of our league. Being honest with you. That’s my personal opinion.”
“It sucks that this has to take the front page of the Finals,” Lowry explains. “It’s been a fun Finals. It’s been a competitive Finals. It really sucks that this has to take part and had to be a part of it.”
“Like I said last night, there is no room in our game for that. In that situation, I don’t think I could have handled it any better. I understand things could have been a lot different if I reacted in a different way — if I did something or put my hands [on him] or did anything of that nature.”
“It sucks that this has to take the front page of the Finals. It’s been a fun Finals. It’s been a competitive Finals. It really sucks that this has to take part and had to be a part of it.”
“Like I said last night, there is no room in our game for that,” he continued. “In that situation, I don’t think I could have handled it any better. I understand things could have been a lot different if I reacted in a different way — if I did something or put my hands [on him] or did anything of that nature.”
“[I] understand that there are plenty of fans and kids watching this game. I understand I have two young children, [and have] to be able to hold myself to a certain standard — which I do hold myself to a high, high standard. I’ve got to make sure I uphold that … [and] never letting guys like him get under your skin. That’s bullcrap,” finished Lowry.
Apology from Stevens:
“I take full responsibility for my actions last night at the NBA Finals and am embarrassed by what transpired,” says Stevens. “What I did was wrong and there is no excuse for it. Mr. Lowry deserves better, and I have reached out today in an attempt to directly apologize to him and other members of the Raptors and Warriors organizations. I’m grateful to those who accepted my calls. I hope that Mr. Lowry and others impacted by this lapse in judgement understand that the behavior I demonstrated last night does not reflect the person I am or have been throughout my life. I made a mistake and I’m truly sorry. I need to be better and look forward to making it right. I fully accept the punishment administered by the NBA and the Warriors.”
Statements from the NBA, the Commissioner, & the Players Association:
“A team representative must be held to the highest possible standard, and the conduct of Golden State Warriors investor Mark Stevens last night was beyond unacceptable and has no place in our league,” says the NBA. “As the review of this matter continues, Mr. Stevens will not be permitted to attend NBA games.”
When asked why Stevens had not received a lifetime ban, Silver said: “I think we recognize that it’s not a science in terms of making these decisions. Ultimately, we felt that given how contrite Mr. Stevens was, the fact that he was extraordinarily apologetic, the fact that he had no blemishes on his prior involvement with the NBA or the Warriors, that a one-year ban seemed appropriate together with the fine.”
“But he made a mistake in my mind and paid a very large price for it.”
“The NBPA has previously expressed its support of a ‘zero-tolerance policy’ with respect to verbal and/or physical assaults perpetrated against players,” says executive director Michele Roberts. “Stevens’ status as a member of the ownership group does not alter that view.”
“Mr. Stevens’ behavior last night did not reflect the high standards that we hope to exemplify as an organization. We’re extremely disappointed in his actions and, along with Mr. Stevens, offer our sincere apology to Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors organization for this unfortunate misconduct. There is no place for such interaction between fans — or anyone — and players at an NBA game.”
“Obviously, an unfortunate situation all around,” says Curry. “Credit Kyle for the way he handled it. Lot of different reactions you could have had. He handled it correctly.”
“… You don’t want to see that in our game. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen. I don’t think it is a reflection of how we handle business here. As a Warriors organization, franchise, we have a high standard and do things with class and professionalism. I know Mark is apologetic and whatnot, but we’ll handle that situation.”
Say good night to the bad guy. Golden State is on the verge of losing the 2019 NBA Finals. They have a must win elimination game on Monday, June 10, 2019 coming live from Toronto, Ontario. There are simply two possibly outcomes for the end of this East vs. West post season finale:
- Kevin Durant rejoins the Golden State team to play games 5-7 energizing his team to win those 3 games giving him his third consecutive Finals MVP Award and complete the 3 Peat.
- Toronto Raptors close out in game 5 against the Kevin Durant-less Golden State Warriors, and Kawhi Leonard wins his 2nd Finals MVP Award with two different teams.