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Fan Fest: Sideline Sideshow Shadows The NBA Finals

Nicole Curran

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

We contend what’s been going off the court at the NBA Finals has been vastly more interesting than anything to do with the first three games of the series between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors.

All of a sudden, the sidelines have become a combustible place, an area to make trouble, get into trouble and attract unwanted abuse.

And we’re not even talking about Drake. He’s been a model citizen, the Raptors world-wide ambassador of chill. But just look at what’s happened in the wake of Wednesday’s Game 3 in Golden State.

We have the wife of the Warriors owner getting serious crap from nitwits who love Beyonce and a big investor of the team getting himself fined and banned for putting his hands on and verbally abusing Raptors guard Kyle Lowry.

Let’s start with Nicole Curran, the wife of team owner Joe Lacob. She showed up at game on Wednesday glitzed to the max, her knee high boots on, her husband sitting to her left and seated right next to Beyonce and Jay-Z. The Fab Four.

Beyonce was seated to Curran’s right, between her and Jay-Z. And during the game, Curran was seen leaning forward and looking past Beyonce to make conversation with Jay-Z.

Nothing wrong with that, right? Just a little friendly chit-chat during a media timeout. Wrong!

Those who pray at Beyonce’s altar interpreted the interaction as an active attempt to flirt and went nuts about it on social media.

Curran was forced to delete her Instagram account after fans went a little too far  – or don’t you think death threats were merited for the perceived offense.

The problem was the look of Queen Bey’s face while all this was going on. She was smiling and then she wasn’t, the classic smile turned upside down. Was it something Curran said? It must have been something Curran said?

Of course, the clip went viral and Curran was quickly depicted as pissing Beyonce off. And that’s all her fans needed to see.

Curran later said all she was doing was playing accommodating host, asking Beyonce and Jay-Z if they wanted a cocktail. He did – vodka and soda. Then because she was having trouble hearing, Curran leaned across Beyonce to reportedly ask if he wanted a lime. This is when Beyonce frowned. Maybe he wanted a lemon?

“There was no hostility,” Curran told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “I was trying to be a good hostess.

“I’ve never experienced cyber bullying like this. I can’t believe our players go through this. That kids go through this.”

Mark Stevens

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Then there’s the case of team investor Mark Stevens, also sitting courtside at the game near Lacob, Curran and the Jay-Zs.  He was ejected early in the fourth quarter for shoving Lowry and uttering profanity in his direction after the guard careened into his row trying to save a ball from going out of bounds.

Lowry knocked the loose ball into a referee and landed in the lap of a male fan who grabbed his jersey with both hands. A woman nearby patted Lowry on his back. Stevens extended his left arm and gave Lowry a shove to his left shoulder. Lowry complained and officials ejected Stevens.

“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,” the league said in a statement. “As the review of this matter continues, Mr. Stevens will not be permitted to attend NBA games.”

The suspension begins immediately and continues throughout the 2020-21 season. And it came with a $500,000 fine.

Lowry said Thursday that Stevens, 59, swore at him numerous times during the incident, using the F-Word to make his point.

“He’s not a good look for the ownership group they have,” Lowry said “… A guy like that, showing his true class, he shouldn’t be a part of our league. There’s just no place for that.

“I was furious, I’m not going to lie.”

Stevens apologized in a statement and said he accepted the punishment from the league and the Warriors.

“I take full responsibility for my actions last night at the NBA Finals and am embarrassed by what transpired,” he said. “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.”

Of course, some people didn’t think Silver went far enough. They wanted Stevens banned for life.

“I think we recognize that it’s not a science in terms of making these decisions,” Silver said. “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.”

Added 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. 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.

“[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.”

What a week to be a spectator at an NBA game.