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Everything Woj Got Wrong About Gambling in Kyrie Irving vs. Boston Fans Rant

Everything Woj Got Wrong About Gambling in Kyrie Irving vs. Boston Fans Rant article feature image
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Getty Images. Pictured: Kyrie Irving

After Kyrie Irving’s much-publicized and predictable issues with Boston Celtics fans after Game 1, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnorowski decided to use the dynamic between fans and player as a moment to look into how gambling is changing fan behavior.

Here's Woj talking about this subject on "NBA Today"#NBAPlayoffs #NBATwitter https://t.co/uR5T5YnZIx pic.twitter.com/2oFwvFilfM

— 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙠𝙞𝙣’ 𝙉𝘽𝘼 (@_Talkin_NBA) April 18, 2022

“As gambling becomes prevalent in the arena, people are gambling on almost everything that goes on in the game and they’re drinking: players, organizations, and you talk to them, they already feel it in the arena,” he said on ESPN.

“When people are losing their money in real time and they’re point to a player on the court and they’re saying, ‘Hey, I bet you to score more points in the second quarter than somebody else and I lost,’ you’re adding an element to that that we’re not talking as much about but is a real factor in the league.”

While some might find that this idea makes sense on the surface, there’s no evidence to support this will happen more.

Here’s what he got wrong.

Gambling’s Not Legal in Mass…

“As gambling becomes prevalent in the arena…”

While you can bet in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, you can’t bet legally in the state of Massachusetts, where Game 1 was being played. Any betting done on this game from fans in attendance came illegally or offshore — both of which have been going on for decades.

This is the most significant back and forth between a player and fans and it likely had nothing to do with gambling.

Quarter Player Prop Matchups Don’t Exist, and “Micro Bets” Likely Won’t Ever Be Popular

“People are gambling on almost everything that goes on in the game and they’re drinking .. When people are losing their money in real time and they’re point to a player on the court and they’re saying, ‘Hey, I bet you to score more points in the second quarter than somebody else and I lost.'”

The most popular bets spreads and totals, and full-game player props. They aren’t really betting on everything. Every play as it happens isn’t detrimental to the gambler in real-time and it’s embarrassing to give a bet as an example that isn’t really a bet — a matchup as to who is going to score more points in a quarter?

The times when a gambler would be most upset at a player is at the end of a game, which makes it virtually impossible — unless words are captured — to distinguish a fan from a bettor. Fans have always been drunk and loud.

While Woj said that there was a different dynamic between Kyrie and Boston fans, the fact he’s using Kyrie makes it an even more awful example.

Kyrie scored 39 points in Game 1. For player props, typically 80-90% of the money is on the over. So it’s actually much more likely that a guy who is typically hated like Kyrie is the hero that night.

There’s No Evidence That Fans in Person Will Be ‘More Vitriolic’ Because They Bet

Heckling and crazy drunk fans have been around since modern sports have been around. If this were a real concern, don’t you think we would see more security lining NBA courts. Wouldn’t the security be much more beefed up in the playoffs as the stakes grow more?

“I think you’re going to see more instances of fans being even more vitriolic towards players in this league,” Woj continued. “And it’s an issue they’re gonna have to deal with, but it comes with the influx of gambling money that everyone is going to profit off of.”

There’s not any more evidence that bigger gambling is happening with people who happen to be at the game. Sure, the idea of throwing a couple bones on a bet might make the game more exciting, but people sitting courtside who are close enough to the players aren’t necessarily the ones dropping the big bets.

A lot of the big bettors are sitting at home behind their computer screens, or they’re at sports bars or in sportsbooks betting a slew of games and are much more likely to slip nasty DM’s into a player’s social media account than scream at them in person.

This Kyrie incident had nothing to do with bettors, so if it’s going to get worse and worse, Woj should be challenged instead of being surrounded by people who just nod their heads.

Where’s the evidence? How many stories can you find of straight-up regular heckling with no evidence of any money on the line versus gamblers clearly shouting at players? It has been few and far between.

Will there be more occurrences of heckling because of gambling? Perhaps. But will it be a regular occurrence that the league has to substantively change the way in which they protect players?

I can tell you now that the league hasn’t prepared in that way.

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