By Ben Golliver
It's time for the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association to add a new "B-list" item for the next round of labor negotiations: protocol governing the pursuit of fan promotions in games that have already been decided.
Stick with this one, because it's hilarious.
During the closing seconds of the Bulls' 99-93 victory over the Magic on Tuesday night, center Joakim Noah launched a three-pointer in an attempt to win free Big Macs for the United Center crowd. As part of a promotion, fans receive a free burger whenever the Bulls break 100 points.
ESPNChicago.com reported that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau did not believe Noah should have attempted the shot, considering the game was already in hand with four seconds remaining, and that Noah felt "regret" over his failed attempt.
"I regret it a little bit," Noah said. "It wasn't a good shot.
"You have to respect the game because you never know what can happen in a game. I just got caught up in the moment and I was trying to get the people a Big Mac. They really wanted a Big Mac (judging by how loud the crowd was getting) and I felt like, not only did I take the shot and miss the shot, we didn't even get the Big Mac. Next time, I won't take that 3-pointer."
Noah, 27, has never made a three-pointer in 365 NBA games (regular season and playoffs).
The Orlando Sentinel reported that multiple Magic players were peeved by Noah's attempt, which did violate the NBA's unwritten end-of-game rule: If the losing team doesn't foul in the closing seconds of a game that is decided, the winning team doesn't attempt another shot, even if a shot-clock violation is the result.
“It was unnecessary,” Magic shooting guard J.J. Redick said when he was asked Wednesday night about Noah’s shot.
Orlando point guard Ish Smith said: “We noticed, and hopefully it won’t happen again.”
The funniest part here: Noah goes home with everyone mad at him. The Magic think he's a poor sport. His coach thinks he should know better and show more professionalism. And, perhaps most important, Bulls fans go home upset that he didn't even hit the shot to deliver the goods. Brutal.
This is no isolated incident. Teams across the league have various giveaways for reaching a certain number of points or for holding an opponent under a certain number of points. Old-school coaches like Thibodeau would surely prefer the entire concept was squashed. Meanwhile, the marketing folks and team partners would inundate the game experience with this type of interactive sales approach if it were up to them. It's hard to imagine these promotions disappearing, so it is incumbent upon the players to take a hard line in these situations. The fans are doing their job by cheering and wanting free food. It's up to the players to understand that sportsmanship can, and should, trump a sandwich, even if it winds up disappointing 20,000 people.