The fans are the reason we even have sports. Without them, there would be no purpose for playing and trying to bring your team to glory. We all love to see loud, passionate, and dedicated fans, as the atmosphere that gets created in the stands often elevates the quality of any game, no matter the sport. The NBA is no different.
Fans in the NBA
NBA fans maybe don't have the reputation of being the loudest or meanest, as there are rare incidents like with teams in Europe. The fan groups over there, especially in the Balkan region, are notorious for the emphatic way of cheering and supporting their team, but also for incidental activities inside and outside the arena.
NBA fans are a bit more casual and laid-back, as they view the game more like a show. But that is just the courtside stuff. Deep down in the bleachers and seats at the top of the arena, the truly passionate fans reside. Sure they aren't hooligans in any kind of way, but they care about their team and are not afraid to get in a scrap if needed. Just remember the "Suns In Four" guy from last season.
We often see NBA players interacting with fans, and it's usually wholesome with fans admiring the stars. But every once in a while, things don't go too smooth. There are always fans that look for trouble and try to provoke the stars. No matter if it's in the arena during a game or outside in the middle of the street. That happens to almost all NBA players, and especially the biggest stars.
Shaquille O'Neal maybe was one of the most terrifying and dominant players the league has ever seen, but even he wasn't spared from getting booed and insulted by fans. During the "Big Podcast," Shaq touched on the subject of dealing with crazy fans and how he handled it:
"Sacramento was probably the toughest city. We go out before the games, and people would be talking about something and I said bro, I'm at like if I go out or something. But like bruh, say what you wanna say about the game, I'm eating these pancakes. You f*cking touch me, I'm gonna break you mother f*cking jaw. I mean I either just make them shut up by whoever that player by busting their ass or busting his ass. Or I'm gonna throw a ball over there and I'm gonna dive on em."
Shaquille O'Neal, The Big Podcast with Shaq
Shaq didn't particularly care about fans yelling at him during the game, as that happened on a nightly basis. But if you tried to approach him the wrong way outside the arena or even touch him, you wouldn't fare too well. The 7'1'', 325 lbs monster Shaq was in his prime would be a scary sight to see, especially considering he was ready to punch you in the jaw.
The Lakers-Kings rivalry in the early 2000s was heated, primarily because of the controversial playoff battles, as I can definitely imagine bitter Kings fans talking smack to him even in a restaurant. But to be honest, that was an anomaly, as Shaq was just one of those universally loved players. The comedic nature, bigger-than-life personality, and charitable character mixed with being one of the best players ever made Shaq a global icon known for interacting with fans and often going out his way to make them happy. But if you tried to wrong him, you would see a whole other side to Shaquille O'Neal.