Michael Deason sat courtside to watch the Charlotte Hornets play once and only once this season – and the experience doesn’t exactly live fondly in his memory.
The Hornets’ James R. Jordan (executive vice president of operations) “wouldn’t let me stand,” Deason said of the Dec. 23 game, during a phone call on Friday morning. “He kept sending security over to make me sit every time I stood up to cheer for the Hornets. So that kind of pissed me off.”
No, Deason is much more at home when he can stand up. And pace. And yell, and scream, and heckle opposing players. That, after all, is what he is most famous for.
But let’s make something clear up front: Though plenty have accused the guy of being an attention-seeker, I’m the one who reached out to him this time. The Hornets had a rough go of things the past couple of months, and have close to zero chance of making the playoffs (they’ll be mathematically out if the Miami Heat beat Toronto on Friday night) – so I called him because I was feeling nostalgic for the excitement of last year’s playoffs.
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Remember that? Charlotte lost the first two games in Miami, but won three straight to set up a chance to clinch the series at home. Hornets fans were feverishly happy. And then “Purple Shirt Guy” happened.
In the hours after the 97-90 loss last April 29, social media was abuzz about the loud-mouthed dude in the purple button-down shirt seen jawing with Dwyane Wade from his courtside seat. The consensus: Purple Shirt Guy got the Heat guard so fired up that he nailed two three-pointers to seal the win and force a Game 7 – which Miami won.
After I tracked him down and outed him as Deason the next day, Purple Shirt Guy briefly became a celebrity. Celebrity villain, maybe, but a celebrity nonetheless, as USA Today, CBS Sports, the Miami Herald and many other media outlets picked up his cocky comments. (His line on things that morning: “No, I didn’t lose the game for them last night. 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.”)
Then, just like that, Deason disappeared. He didn’t renew his season tickets, and when the Hornets opened their 2016-17 campaign, new faces were in his old seats.
He did show up for that Dec. 23 game (not entirely coincidentally, it was against the Bulls, Wade’s new team), and he also sat in the lower level for another game but left at halftime. Otherwise, the 44-year-old husband and father has quietly watched the Hornets struggle this season from his home outside Greensboro.
But give him an opening and Deason takes it and runs – his mouth, that is. So, here it is: A little shy of one year later, just for kicks, a collection of fresh quotes that show he’s still as colorful as his infamous shirt.
▪ “I kept this recording on my TV for the longest time: On the post-game show that night, Charles Barkley goes, ‘There’s always one fan in the crowd that we all hate, and at the end of the game, we should be allowed to beat the hell out of that guy. That’s that guy.’ OK, now he wants to beat the s--- out of me. I’m OK with that. As long as we can then take the player that got paid the most and performed the worst, and beat the s--- out of him. I mean, let’s look at it from both sides of the point of view.”
▪ “One guy (on Twitter) actually posted my address, and said to go heckle me. It was an old address, but the funny thing is, all you had to do is click a link in his profile and it takes you right to his Facebook page, gives you his cell number. So I just called him and asked him why he did it, and he got all scared. He was like, ‘I’m sorry!’ I’m like, ‘Dude, it’s just a basketball game.’ ”
▪ At the Bulls game in December, “I didn’t say anything to Dwyane Wade. I did wink at him, though, and he did see me. We had a moment. But he wasn’t smiling.”
▪ His overall philosophy on heckling NBA players: “It’s funny to play with those guys’ heads. If they’re not thinking about the game, and they’re thinking about something stupid – their shoes, some stupid comment I made – then that gives us a little bit of an advantage.”
▪ “Now listen, I’m also smart. I also know that there’s a few players that come into the game, you don’t really want to yell at them. DeMarcus Cousins (of the New Orleans Pelicans), he’s one of them. You know that there is a screw loose somewhere in there, and they may snap and come running at you.”
▪ “But these men are 20, 30 years old, and here’s a 44-year-old tellin’ ’em that their shoes are horrible, or they need to retire. It drives them crazy. I mean, there might need to be some training on the NBA level to teach guys to not let so much get to them. ... I played basketball in high school, I played basketball in college. And all the years that I played, I remember looking into the stands, and my own family members that went to the other schools were yelling insults at me and heckling at me. I just laughed at it.”
▪ “Hassan Whiteside (of the Heat)? You can get to him so easily. Hell, bring me in – I can help him out on that. I’ll stand on the sidelines and just call him a loser or something until it doesn’t bother him anymore.”
▪ The home team doesn’t get a pass, either. Asked what went wrong for the Hornets this year, he said: “The same thing that goes wrong for them every single year. They need to bring in a young, powerful post player, not someone that’s getting ready to go into his quote-unquote fifties in basketball years, who’s having to wear shinguards every time he runs up and down the floor. ... You bring in a center, you get that powerful middle taken care of, then I think you’ll see a turnaround.”
▪ But he’s not too broken up about the Hornets not making the playoffs. “If you go in and make the playoffs as the eighth seed, then you’re not really helping yourself, if you think about it – ’cause you’re probably gonna lose four straight games.”
▪ Does he miss having season tickets? “Oh, no, no, no, no, no. I had them for almost seven years, and I had a lot of fun, but now I can use that money to do a lot of other things.”
▪ His heckling days might not be over yet, though. “A buddy of mine asked me if I wanted to go to any of the Davidson games next year and sit courtside. So I may go over there: change from the Purple Shirt Guy to the Red Shirt Guy...”