Knicks fans were frustrated. Their underperforming team this season came out and dropped 25 points in the first half to the Celtics – and Knicks fans have let them know. There were boos.
Julius Randle remembered it, and when the Knicks came back in the fourth quarter – and ultimately won in spectacular fashion – Randle gave the fans a boost. Asked about it after the game, Randle said it meant “shut the fuck up”.
It went as well as expected (Randle could have asked some New York Mets players how the move is going – and Randle apologized via Instagram on Friday.
Professional athletes shouldn’t expect unconditional love from fans. Especially high IQ fans, like you get at Madison Square Garden – they know good basketball when they see it, and they haven’t seen it much this season. So fans have expressed their frustration. As is their right.
These fans are also emotionally invested, often in ways that players aren’t – it’s no business for them, it’s a passion. There is no transfer to another team; they are all in it, win or lose. They spend hard earned money and their free time watching games, they are allowed to have expectations. This year’s Knicks haven’t lived up to anyone’s expectations, including their own.
Those same fans will jump out of their seats and treat players like gods if they see real effort, especially when that effort leads to comeback wins.
Randle knows all of this but seemed to forget it in the heat of the moment. An apology is a good step, but he can do more on the ground to mend this relationship than he can with words.