A fan walked onto the Quicken Loans Arena court in Cleveland and approached All-Star guard Kyrie Irving during the second quarter of a Saturday night game between the Clippers and Cavaliers. The young male fan walked up to Irving in an apparent attempt to get him to look at his “Kyrie, Don’t Leave” t-shirt.
With a little more than three minutes remaining before halftime and the score tied at 44, Cleveland set up on offense. Irving dumped the ball into Andrew Bynum and hovered at the top of the key before the fan approached him. The possession continued with Bynum missing the shot and the Clippers securing the defensive rebound and bringing the ball up the court. Finally, the officials noticed the fan as he stood near Chris Paul’s dribbling path. A pair of security guards carried the fan off the court but not before Paul could confront him. Blake Griffin, on the other hand, wisely kept a safe distance throughout.
Irving, 21, is in the third year of his rookie contract and the Cavaliers have picked up his team option for the 2014-15 season. Next summer, the Cavaliers will be able to offer Irving a contract extension that could last as long as five years. If they can’t agree on a deal, Irving would proceed toward restricted free agency in 2015, and Cleveland would have matching rights on any offers made to Irving. The earliest Irving could leave the Cavaliers as an unrestricted free agent is 2016, which would require him to accept a one-year qualifying offer for the 2015-16 season rather than sign an extension or agree to an offer in restricted free agency. Such a decision is essentially unprecedented for a player of Irving’s caliber.
The scene was reminiscent of a March incident in which a fan ran onto the Quicken Loans Arena court during a game between the Heat and Cavaliers to urge LeBron James to re-sign with Cleveland. That fan appeared to touch James before he headed out near the three-point line, where he displayed a shirt that read “We Miss You” on the front and “2014 Come Back” on the back, before he was eventually bear-hugged by a security officer and escorted off the court without further incident.
The Point Forward posted a video earlier this year in which a young Cavaliers fan asked Irving if he planned to leave Cleveland like James did in 2010.
“That’s a great question,” Irving said at the time. “No. I won’t leave. I’m not leaving.”
Such security breaches are rare, and the NBA league office surely won’t be thrilled that the same incident has happened in the same arena on two separate occasions during the same calendar year. A face-off between a max-level superstar like Paul and a random fan with no business on the court is just about the league’s worst nightmare. Any discussion of Irving’s unhappiness is a public relations black eye for the Cavaliers, but that’s nothing compared to the safety of the league’s players.