NBA Finals players were shocked and appalled at Golden State Warriors part-owner Mark Stevens for shoving Toronto's Kyle Lowry in a game while praising the Raptors standout for his restraint.
Lowry crashed into courtside seats chasing a loose ball in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's 123-109 Raptors' victory, which gave Toronto a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven series.
That's when Stevens, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, reached over and shoved Lowry and yelled several profane comments at him. Lowry complained to a referee and Stevens was removed from the seats.
"That's unacceptable," Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins said. "It's just unacceptable."
Stevens was banned from NBA games and all Warriors activities for one year and fined $500,000 by the league and the team on Thursday, although Lowry called for him to be forced out of the league.
"I don't care who he is. If he had a billion dollars or zero dollars, there's no room for that in our game," Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said. "It's unacceptable. It's uncalled for.
"Kyle should get some type of bonus for not doing what every human wants to do in that situation."
Among those praising Lowry's attitude was four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James, who pondered what could have been on Instagram.
"PART-OWNER of the Warriors knew exactly what he was doing which was so uncalled for," James posted. "Just think to yourself, what if (Lowry) would have reacted and put his hands back on him. You guys would be going CRAZY!! Calling for him to damn near be put in jail let alone being suspended for the rest of the Finals all because he was protected himself."
Raptors guard Danny Green was surprised to learn it was a Warriors part-owner who shoved his teammate.
"When it came out, I was shocked and a little appalled about his behavior," Green said. "I'm like: 'What the hell are you doing? You got to know better.'"
Warriors forward Draymond Green, himself noted for diving and hustle, said players are in a no-win situation when fans are involved.
"Players are definitely vulnerable," Golden State's Green said. "You say something back, you're fined. If Kyle was to then hit back, a lot more than a fine would have then happened to Kyle.
"For him to handle it the way he did says a lot about his character, a lot about him as a man and the way he handles himself. That was great to see."
- 'Could have been worse' -
Many players missed the incident during the contest because Lowry kept his cool.
"When you see the video, it's pretty clear who is in the wrong," said Golden State star Stephen Curry, who scored 47 points Wednesday.
"I just credit Kyle, the way he handled it, because it could have been a lot worse in terms of an altercation."
Draymond Green welcomed the NBA's moves to crack down on inappropriate fan behavior.
"The league has really grown in having a no-nonsense approach when it comes to fan-to-player interactions, fans getting removed from games for getting out of line," Draymond Green said. "Definitely not the type of thing you want out of somebody out of the ownership group."
Toronto's Kyle Lowry complains to referee Marc Davis after being pushed by Golden State Warriors minority investor Mark Stevens during an NBA Finals game Wednesday
Golden State Warriors minority investor Mark Stevens, seated in blue shirt at left, was issued a one-year NBA ban and fined $500,000 after shoving Toronto's Kyle Lowry in game three of the NBA Finals