The San Antonio Spurs don't need extra motivation to defeat the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. After all, Coach Gregg Popovich is one win away from having the most regular season victories in head coaching history.
Still, everyone can be petty sometimes, and the city of San Antonio is no exception. There are a few simple rules opponents must follow to avoid the wrath of Spurs fans. Going after Popovich might be the biggest offense. On Wednesday, local SA reporter Maddy Skye tweeted about an incident she wrote about in 2019 involving Raptors All-Star Fred VanVleet at their championship parade.
The video clip shows VanVleet live on his Instagram with his arm around someone celebrating their title. People in the comments identified the man as Jeremy Castleberry, a close friend of Leonard's who was hired by Toronto to be on Nick Nurse's staff.
"It wasn't like this in SA, huh?" said VanVleet in Castleberry's ear. The Spurs were coming off their 22nd consecutive playoff appearance.
"F--- Pop," can then be heard, although the camera is conveniently shifted away at that point. It happens again, just for good measure.
"I ain't gonna do y'all dirty like that, but (Fred then moves the camera out of view), f--- Pop."
Warning: Graphic language.
Of course, Spurs fans piled on VanVleet for the unclassy moment, but there was a disagreement about whether he actually said the two most offensive words in the video.
"We don't know that it was FVV," one fan said. "It may have been Jeremy Castleberry."
No matter who said it, it's clear VanVleet was instigating the slander in both instances and laughing it up each time it was yelled. Naturally, Spurs fans didn't take too kindly to the gesture.
Either way the actual event played out, it's not the best look for VanVleet, but it's easy to get carried away during an emotional celebration. As someone who went undrafted, to win an NBA title must feel like the ultimate high for someone that had to work so hard to get to his position. He was also holding a bottle of champagne and a cigar throughout the parade, so I'm sure that had something to do with the lapse in judgment as well.
My way of approaching this is to think about how Coach Popovich would react in such a situation and, well, not care at all. Still, I could understand why some fans might have some extra motivation to see Coach Pop put Toronto in his record book as the team that got him over the finish line.
The Spurs host the Raptors on Wednesday evening at 8:30 pm ET.