Once again, basketball lives on as a sport of unpredictable and explosive emotions. During OSU’s game against Texas Tech last Saturday, Marcus Smart seemed to channel the aggression of Ron Artest, when he shoved a Texas Tech fan with 6.2 seconds left in the game. The Oklahoma State player claims to have reacted as a result of being called a racial slur by the Red Raider fan, Jeff Orr. Although neither party is clear of blame, Smart will be suspended for the next three games. This unfortunate punishment will not bode well for OSU’s already suffering season, having lost their last four games.
The confrontation between Smart and Orr occurred when Smart blocked Texas Tech forward Jaye Crockett’s dunk and consequently went flying into the crowd standing behind the basket. As Smart stood up, Texas Tech fans surrounded him, jeering at him. Jeff Orr, within the crowd, yelled something to Smart, who then shoved Orr. Smart claims Orr called him a n–r, which was the reason for his overzealous reaction.
In his public statement, Smart apologized to Jeff Orr, his teammates and Head Coach for OSU, Travis Ford. “This is not how I conduct myself,” said Smart at a press conference in Stillwater, OK. “I just can’t let that happen again. It’s a lesson I’ll have to learn from. It’s all upon me. I truly apologize to all those who are important to me. I feel I let my teammates down.”
From the opposing side, Jeff Orr has volunteered to not attend the remaining home or away games for Texas Tech this season. Orr has also issued an apology for his past actions, which is an interesting statement considering his behavior in a Texas Tech game in 2010 versus Texas A&M. During this game in 2010, Orr was filmed giving an inappropriate and offensive gesture to past A&M forward Bryan Davis. Jeff Orr, a Waco, Texas air traffic controller, travels thousands of miles to attend Raiders’ games. This has been confirmed by Texas Tech athletic director, Blayne Beal. The behavior exemplified by Orr, and the lack of discipline showed to him confirms the need for stricter enforcement of ethical conduct by both players and fans.
Unfortunately for Marcus Smart, the press has regarded his behavior as the product of a volatile and hot-headed kid. However, many have stepped up to defend Smart’s character. Smart’s facebook page is flooded with posts showing support, many providing personal statements concerning his character. Additionally, many friends and fans have tweeted similar statements, signing each with the hashtag “I’mwithMarcus.” Even Oklahoma State’s Head Coach, Travis Ford has expressed his unwavering support for the integrity of his point guard.
This article would not be complete without my own personal testament to the character of Smart. I attended Edward S Marcus High School with him. Yes, our high school was coincidentally named Marcus High School. Despite being a huge celebrity in a suburban Texas town, Smart remained true to himself. During the many basketball games I attended, my fellow classmates and I felt reassured by Smart’s calming presence. He rarely allowed the boisterous cheers of the opposing team affect his ability to play. In fact, I doubt he even heard their obnoxious and pathetic cheers, as he was always remained intent on the game.
There are many instances and stories that stick in my mind, which would contribute to my testament to Smart’s character. He always remembered my name and would take the time to talk to me when we saw each other in the crowded hallways of our high school. After almost all of our high school games, Marcus would be swarmed by a group of local kids, begging for his autograph. To them he always showed patience and put on a true smile, whether we won or lost. But what set him apart in high school from other incredible athletes was his ease and comfort with himself. People all over wanted to say they met and knew Marcus Smart, not only because he was a talented player but also because he was the kind of guy who wouldn’t suffocate you with his oversized ego. He proved his talent on the court, not in conversation.
Although the press may try to paint Smart as a riled up and immature player; his true fans know better. We also know that after OSU’s next three games, after the conclusion of his suspension, Smart will come back stronger, faster and more determined than ever to be the exemplary player he is. This may bring the proper motivation to lift Oklahoma State out of their losing streak.