LOS ANGELES — Shannon Sharpe spends his days trading barbs with Skip Bayless on Fox Sports 1’s “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed,” but the former NFL star turned sports commentator sparked a verbal confrontation with multiple members of the Memphis Grizzlies during their Friday night game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Once cooler heads prevailed, Sharpe issued a lengthy apology to the Grizzlies and Lakers on television Monday.
The tense scene unfolded directly across from the Grizzlies’ bench. As Sharpe, 54, turned his attention to Tee Morant, who came across the court once the heated verbal altercation unfolded, security staffers and the referees intervened to separate the parties. The back-and-forth shouting match lasted longer than 30 seconds before the Grizzlies exited to the locker room and Sharpe headed for the tunnel.
Sharpe, a famously vocal supporter of LeBron James, told ESPN that the conversation began when he told Brooks that he was too small to defend the Lakers star. The Pro Football Hall of Famer added that he exchanged profanities with Brooks and that the Grizzlies’ contingent “didn’t want this smoke.” When play resumed for the second half, Sharpe returned to his seat.
More of the verbal confrontation between Tee Morant & Shannon Sharpe pic.twitter.com/6f3uPRqVQE— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) January 21, 2023
Brooks said afterward that he had responded to Sharpe only by saying that James had missed a shot.
“I ain’t talking about that,” said Brooks, who fouled out with nine points on 4-for-17 shooting against the Lakers. “You can ask him. He’s the blogger or whatever he is. I don’t really care about all that. Next question.”
The veteran guard added later that he felt it was inappropriate for Sharpe to be allowed to remain in his seat after the altercation.
“A regular pedestrian like him? No,” Brooks said. “He should have never came back in the game, but it’s L.A.”
Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks said Shannon Sharpe, as a fan, shouldn’t have been been allowed to stay at the arena after halftime verbal altercation: “A regular pedestrian like him? No. He should have never came back in the game, but it’s LA.” pic.twitter.com/qXobVt9Nku— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) January 21, 2023
The NBA has a code of conduct governing fan behavior in hopes of “foster[ing] a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable sports and entertainment experience.” Fans are not allowed to engage in “disruptive behavior, including foul or abusive language and obscene gestures,” in addition to other potential violations, or else they risk expulsion or possible arrest. Printed versions of the policy are placed on courtside seats before games, and public address announcers reiterate the policy before tip-off.
Sharpe apologized to Brooks, Morant and the Grizzlies on Monday’s episode of “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed.”
“I was wrong,” Sharpe said. “I should have lowered the temperature in the arena. Instead, I turned the temperature up and I let it get out of hand. ... I want to apologize to Dillon Brooks. He is a fierce competitor, and seeing him up close, I get a sense of why he is what he is. ... Ja, it was a privilege and an honor to watch you up close and personal.”
Sharpe also apologized to the Lakers for bringing “any harm and unwanted attention,” to James for “[putting] you in a situation that you had to support me for something like this” and to the fans in attendance and those watching on television because his actions were “not what you paid for.”
James, who finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the win, thanked Sharpe for his support during his postgame comments Friday.
“That’s my guy,” he said. “I’ll always have his back, and he’s got mine. He can talk with the best of them, that’s for sure.”
Whether or not the fiery conversation was to blame, the Grizzlies blew a 13-point lead and conceded 41 fourth-quarter points to the Lakers en route to their first loss since Dec. 27. The Lakers rallied from a five-point deficit with 1:04 remaining, getting the go-ahead points when Dennis Schröder stripped Desmond Bane and converted an and-one layup in transition with 7.1 seconds left.
Russell Westbrook led the Lakers with 29 points, five rebounds and six assists off the bench. Schröder added 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
During the break between the third and fourth quarters, Tee Morant approached Sharpe and the two settled their differences with a hug. Tee Morant told Bleacher Report that he had “nothing but love” for Sharpe. After the game, a celebratory Sharpe pointed at several Grizzlies players and shared another round of laughs with Tee Morant.
Grizzlies Coach Taylor Jenkins and Ja Morant dodged questions about the altercation during their postgame comments.
“We just had a complete letdown in the second half,” Jenkins said. “[The Lakers] fueled the game with their fans and all that stuff — credit to them. We didn’t respond.”
Morant added: “Let me think. Nah. I ain’t going to address that. I’m going to let him lay over there.”