LeBron James, trying to steal an Elfrid Payton pass and save the ball from going out of bounds, had the ball slapped away by a courtside fan in Orlando.
After deliberating, the refs award the Cavaliers the ball out of bounds.
If the NBA has a standard policy for this, I don’t see it in the rulebook. A player seated on the bench interfering with the ball is covered, and so is verbal fan interference. But physical fan interference? I can’t find it.
Looking to baseball, a fielder makes a play on the ball in the stands “at his own risk” – meaning fans can’t be called for interference once a player reaches over the wall.
However, basketball doesn’t have that clear wall separating the playing field from the crowd. How far in front of his seat does that fan’s personal area extend? He appeared to be reacting naturally in protecting himself than purposefully reaching out to interfere with LeBron. The sideline out of bounds is a murky area.
This play wasn’t critical in Cleveland’s 123-108 win, but the NBA should ensure the standard for handling this type of incident is set clearly.