There were many keys to the Miami Heat’s Game 6 playoff victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night. But was a loud-mouthed Hornets fan in a purple button-down shirt actually one of them?
If you put your finger on the pulse of a social media platform like Twitter, the overwhelming answer in the hours after the 97-90 loss was a resounding yes: Fans of both teams (and of the NBA Playoffs in general) suggested the anonymous middle-aged man seen yammering away at Dwyane Wade from his Time Warner Cable Arena courtside seat so fired up the Heat guard that he nailed two three-pointers that sealed the win and tied the series.
The Hornets super-fan in the purple button-down shirt, however, disagrees.
“No, I didn’t lose the game for them last night,” said Michael Deason, 43, the owner of that courtside seat. “Hell, did I win the game for them in Game 3 and 4? Because I was cheering a hell of a lot louder in Game 3 and 4.”
During the fourth quarter of Friday night’s game, ESPN cameras clearly showed Deason jawing at Wade, and also clearly showed Wade giving him a pretty scary death glare. During an interview with the Observer on Saturday morning, Deason simply said he told Wade that the player needed to retire.
But Deason – who has been a season-ticket holder for about seven years and drives down to every game from the Greensboro area – says there’s been bad blood between him and the Heat for awhile.
“Those guys, they don’t like me,” he said. “The coach (Erik Spoelstra) doesn’t like me, the players get in trouble if they talk to me, (Heat guard) Gerald Green he tries his best not to talk to me and every time he does they ream him a new one. So when the Heat come to town, I try to step it up a little bit more.”
Most people who’ve been to Hornets’ home games have probably noticed Deason and his attention-grabbing style of spectating; he yells, he screams, he heckles, he sometimes stalks the sideline as if he owns it.
He said he’s tries to keep the trash-talk about basketball, although it’s still most definitely trash-talk.
Deason recalled a time when Atlanta guard Tim Hardaway Jr.’s shooting hand against Charlotte turned ice-cold, so he told him: “Hey look, it’s OK. We’ll do a dollar a shot – dollar a shot, from right here. You gotta shoot it from over here, though. You make it, at the end of the game come get your money.”
In a more well-documented incident, Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant got in Deason’s face after he took issue with some of his heckling. Deason, who said he told him “You’re third (best) in the league, dude – stop crying,” received a formal notice from the NBA warning him that he was in violation of the Fan Code of Conduct.
"Our primary focus around the court is on the safety of the players and the fans. We want to provide an enjoyable environment for our customers within reason. However we have had discussions and will continue to have them around any conduct that can create safety issues," said Fred Whitfield, Hornets president.
Deason said he just tries to have fun.
“I played basketball. I understand the game, so I point out fundamentals to them and just stupid stuff,” Deason explained. And he realizes what the effect is – or, at least, what the intended effect is. “It’d be like if someone called up and tried to tell you how to be a reporter or a journalist, when they wrote in the school newspaper. It would piss you off. And that’s all I’m trying to do.”
But the Heat have a different view of Wade’s reaction.
“Sometimes, it’s better not to wake up a sleeping giant,” Heat rookie Josh Richardson told the Miami Herald after the game, implying that Deason’s antics inspired Wade to light up the Hornets in the fourth quarter.
Anyway, if you’re hoping to see Deason in action (or simply hoping to tell him to sit down and shut up), you may never get the chance if the Hornets don’t win the series on Sunday: Deason said he’s not planning on renewing his season tickets because of the expense, the time it takes to travel each way, and because he feels the Hornets’ brass is somewhat ambivalent about his presence.
On social media, Deason now has his own hashtags: #purpleshirtman and #purpleshirtguy. As for those who have joked on Twitter that they’d like to see the guy in the purple shirt in Miami for Game 7 so he can hand the Heat another win, Deason laughed.
“If someone bought me a trip down, and bought me a courtside ticket? I might show up. I don’t know if the Hornets would want me there, but...”