Two years ago today, the second best temper tantrum in Spirit Arena history took place between Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart and die hard Texas Tech basketball fan Jeff Orr. Brittney Griner punching a Lady Raider in 2011 remains number one in the history books.
My friends and I were at the game that night as Texas Tech faced off against the #19 Cowboys. Attendance was great, and the crowd was blacked out which made the atmosphere even more awesome.
It was a tight game all the way through. Tech led 63-61 with less than 15 seconds left when they stole the ball from Oklahoma State, resulting in a fast break towards the opposite side of the arena form the student section. Marcus Smart committed an intentional foul to avoid an easy bucket. When he did, he fell past the end line on the court and into the crowd.
With the game pretty much in the bag, my friends and I, along with the entire crowd, went nuts. Next thing we know, Texas Tech is shooting free throws for a technical foul. We had no clue what happened and just assumed the Cowboys’ head coach said something to an official.
Sure enough, Tech closed out the win, we stormed the court, and walked back to our dorm room. When we got into the dorm room lobby, we noticed some sort of highlights from the game on the lobby TV. "Hey, the game made it onto ESPN!" we said as we gathered around the screen.
Next thing we know, they’re showing the same clip over and over again on a loop. It was Marcus Smart shoving some Texas Tech fan, who we now know is Jeff Orr. At first confused because we didn’t remember anything like that happening during the game, we figured out that must have been the technical foul at the end of the game.
And then it got really crazy. A guy standing next to us in the lobby told us that was his dad who got shoved. In unison, we all yelled "WHAT?!"
"Yeah. He left the arena with security protection. He was on the phone with our attorney, who told him to ignore all media requests right now. But there were cameras and media members mobbing him when he left the game." (I don’t remember word for word what was said, but this was pretty much it)
So Texas Tech basketball and Jeff Orr were national news for about 24 hours. The next day, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announced he was gay, in advance of the 2014 NFL draft. That was bigger news for ESPN, so the Marcus Smart and Jeff Orr story pretty much faded away.
Initially it was reported that Orr hurled a racial slur at Smart when he landed in the stands. Avoiding a major black eye for the university, it was later confirmed that no such insult was made. The consensus seems to be that Orr called Smart a "piece of crap". Not ideal, but that’s not nearly as bad as a racist remark.
Both Orr and Smart apologized for their roles in the incident. Orr voluntarily said he wouldn’t attend any more Texas Tech basketball games that season (there were only a few home games left), while Smart acknowledged even if someone heckles a player, the player can’t go into the stands and shove them.
The next home game, I got a kick out of a sign a Texas Tech fan was holding which read: "We Are Jeff Orr", depicting a sarcastic theme that Red Raider fans were ALL the victims of Smart’s shove. All in all, the incident wasn’t a huge deal. No racial epithet. Nobody got hurt. And Marcus Smart was a top ten pick in the draft that year anyway. Still, it’s a night at the Spirit Arena that won’t soon be forgotten.