This should be the best time of the year for the NBA. The playoffs are in full stride, and teams aren’t playing in an isolated bubble, but in front of hometown crowds. Many states are relaxing COVID-19 protocols and allowing fans to return, something that was initially viewed a another big plus. But increasingly the issue of fans misbehaving at games is becoming a major one, as this past Sunday saw yet another ugly incident in the first round that involved someone in the stands displaying deplorable conduct during or after a game.

This time a Boston Celtics fan threw a water bottle at Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving. That jerk has been identified as Cole Buckley, 21, of Braintree, Massachusetts, according to the Boston Police Department. He rightly faces one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and had an initial hearing in Boston Municipal Court on Tuesday.

Buckley allegedly threw a bottle of Dasani water in the direction of Irving as the Nets star entered the tunnel to leave the court following a 39-point performance in a 141-126 victory against the Celtics at TD Garden.

According to police records, security located the individual in question, and a police officer on detail at the arena arrested Buckley as the suspect. A witness from TD Garden security told police the water bottle grazed Irving’s head. A member of Nets security also witnessed the incident, which was caught on video.

This follows the disgusting scene of someone in Philadelphia throwing popcorn on the Washington Wizards’ Russell Westbrook as he was leaving the court, and the family of Memphis Grizzlies’ guard Ja Morant being verbally harassed in Utah, as well as another incident of abuse and harassment in New York. Fortunately in every case the NBA and individual teams have responded quickly. Fans have been permanently banned from the arena in every case, and the 76ers revoked the season ticket privileges for the individual involved in the Westbrook situation.

But it still leaves a very bad memory and doesn’t make the NBA look very good either. Irving and TD Garden both responded to Sunday’s event. “It doesn’t matter, honestly,” Irving said to the press in a conference call. “Anything could’ve happened with that water bottle being thrown at me, but my brothers were surrounding me, I had people in the crowd, so I’m just trying to get home to my wife and my kids.” 

TD Garden is cooperating with Boston police and has issued a lifetime ban of Buckley.

“We will support and provide assistance to Boston Police as this incident is under review,” TD Garden spokesperson Tricia McCorkle said in a statement issued following the game. “We have zero tolerance for violations of our guest code of conduct, and the guest is subject to a lifetime ban from TD Garden.”

Irving was booed every time he touched the ball and showered with obscene chants throughout Games 3 and 4 in Boston. Until the water bottle-throwing incident, Irving took the jeers in stride, even egging on the crowd as he struggled during a loss to the Celtics on Friday. He casually stepped on the head of the leprechaun in the Celtics logo at center court after the Game 4 win.

Some fans think they have a right to say and do whatever they choose when purchasing a ticket, despite the fact every arena in the nation has a code of proper conduct, and many even put it on the tickets they sell. Yet folks feel they can utter racist taunts, and throw things on courts, fields or ice as a show of support for the home squad.

There truly should be ZERO tolerance for any behavior of that sort. People who throw things should not only be booted out of arenas and permanently banned, but charged for crimes and sentenced to jail time. Perhaps incarceration will do something for these fans that their parents failed to do, namely teach them how to act in public and the right way to back their teams at sporting events.