We at SB Nation believe NBA fans are allowed to express their frustration in the form of booing certain league figures. We also believe booing is an activity that must be practiced in moderation, under very specific circumstances that justify the behavior. That’s why Tom Ziller wrote the definitive guide to NBA booing last January.
With the 2019-20 NBA schedule now officially out, you’re probably wondering when those very specific circumstances apply this year. Using Ziller’s classification, here is SB Nation’s definitive guide to when booing is acceptable at an NBA game this season — as well as circumstances where booing may occur, but shouldn’t.
(An important caveat: while we are pro-booing in the right circumstances, we absolutely do not condone directing abusive, sexist, and/or racist language toward players, coaches, or other NBA figures. When we use the term “booing”, we mean it literally).
Boo the entire game if you’d like
Nov. 27: LA Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans
Nov. 27: Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics
Dec. 22: LA Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder
These are the first return games for three marquee stars who forced their way out of teams in the last calendar year. Two of the three left via trade demands — Anthony Davis rather publicly, and Paul George quietly.
The third is Kyrie Irving, who didn’t technically demand a trade, but belongs in this conversation due to extenuating circumstances. Normally, we do not approve of booing players who fulfilled their contractual obligations and then left as a free agent, but Irving is an exception. Reneging on a pledge to stay and then destabilizing a promising young team with awkward leadership attempts, cryptic quotes, and confusing messages is akin to actually requesting a trade.
Boo if you want, but it’s OK to be conflicted
Nov. 14: Dallas Mavericks at New York Knicks
It’s fair to say that Kristaps Porzingis demanded to leave the Knicks last winter, whether via trade or by signing a qualifying offer to hasten his departure in free agency. Under normal circumstances, that’d give Knicks fans license for booing in his return game.
But this is also a case where Porzingis had good reason to leave, given the Knicks’ dysfunction. Under those circumstances, it’s acceptable to moderate the booing, as Ziller wrote:
You can boo them, but a civilized fandom would do it only halfheartedly and only doing introductions or the player’s first entrance into the game.
Boo because your opponent is your rival
Oct. 22: LA Lakers at LA Clippers
Dec. 25: LA Clippers at LA Lakers
Jan. 28: LA Clippers at LA Lakers
March 8: LA Lakers at LA Clippers
This should cover all four Lakers-Clippers games. Will it cover any others? Good question.
Are the Celtics and 76ers still rivals? Historically, yes, but the case is flimsier right now. Are the Rockets and Warriors considered rivals? I guess, but the Warriors always win in the playoffs. Will the Kings and Warriors rekindle the Northern California battle? Probably too soon on that one. Are the Bucks and 76ers now rivals? Probably not yet, but keep an eye out. Nets-Knicks ... maybe? Jazz-Rockets? Lakers-Celtics? Some combination of teams we’re forgetting?
We’re willing to consider adding more games to this category, but for now, we’ll be conservative.
Boo if you still feel passionately about your specific beef with this non-star player
Dec. 22: Charlotte Hornets at Boston Celtics
You may recall Terry Rozier’s honesty about his messy time with the Celtics last year, most notably when he essentially confirmed his own departure in a First Take interview just after Boston’s season ended.