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Adrian Wojnarowski has a theory. He believes that fans in attendance are now taunting and booing NBA players more than ever because so many of them have their own financial skin in the game.
Woj dropped the gambling bomb after he witnessed Celtic fans relentlessly chide Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets during a playoff game on Sunday. Irving responded with two of the biggest birds Boston has seen since Larry wore shamrocks.
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Then he did it again.
Irving, of course, directed his flagrant fingers at fans who were undoubtedly just wishing him a Happy Easter.
And they may have had a few dozen eggs on the line.
“I think you’re going to see more instances of fans being more vitriolic towards players in this league, and it’s an issue they’re going to have to deal with,” Wojnarowski said during an appearance on ESPN’s NBA Today. “But it comes, I think, with the influx of gambling money.”
Woj’s idea adds up. Sports gambling is as popular as ever. Though it’s not yet legal in every state, the industry as a whole has exploded over the last several years. Depending on the state, anyone over the age of 18 or 21 with a cell phone, credit card, and mobile app can win big or lose the mortgage based off of one team or player’s performance.
Skeptics would argue that the tongue lashing Irving continuously received from Bostonians had more to do with his rather lackluster NBA career and his unceremonious exit from Beantown after two disappointing seasons.
But that’s one instance of one player facing off against one former team in a high-stakes series. Woj is speaking about the big picture.
“As gambling becomes more prevalent in the arena, people gambling on almost everything, and they’re drinking, players and organizations – and you talk to them – they already feel it in the arena,” Wojnarowski added.
We now live in a world where gambling lines are advertised in nearly every sports arena and on every sports news site, including OutKick. And as long as leagues like the NBA continue to push gambling, contentious interactions between players and fans will likely continue, perhaps even worsen.
“When people are losing money in real time, and they’re pointing to a player on the court and say, ‘Hey, I bet you to score more points in the second quarter than someone else and I lost,’ you’re adding an element to that that we’re not talking as much about, but is a real factor in this league,” Woj said, via NBA Today.
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Will either Irving or fans across the league alter their behavior anytime soon? Don’t bet on it.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism