Kyrie Irving’s return to Boston was all the time going to be hostile and heated. Now it’s nearly assured to be elevated to pure hatred after the Nets star primarily known as out Celtic followers’ conduct throughout his stint there, and hoped they’d chorus from any “racism” and “belligerence” for Friday and Sunday’s video games at TD Garden.
“It’s not my first time being an opponent in Boston. So, I’m just looking forward to competing with my teammates,” Irving said on a Zoom press conference after Tuesday’s Game 2 win. “And hopefully, we will simply preserve it strictly basketball, there’s no belligerence or racism occurring — refined racism — folks yelling s–t from the group.
“But even if it is, it’s part of the nature of the game and we’re just going to focus on what we can control.”
Asked if he’d had racist feedback directed at him whereas taking part in in Boston, Irving implied he and others had.
“I’m not the only one that can attest to this. But it’s just … it won’t …,” Irving stated, with a resigned chuckle. He threw his arms up and added, “It is what it is.”
At that time, a voice off-camera chimed in, “The whole world knows it.” To which Irving agreed, “The whole world knows it.”
Some have instructed that voice belonged to Kevin Durant, who was close by and adopted on the following Zoom name.
What’s past doubt is that Friday’s Game 3 — which Brooklyn goes into with a 2-0 sequence lead — will see the Celtics followers at full froth, even with solely 25 % of TD Garden’s 19,580 capability permitted. It’ll be “near full capacity” for Sunday’s Game 4.
Irving spent two up-and-down years in Boston. His management was poor, the 2018-19 outcomes have been disappointing and, after initially expressing a want to remain, did an abrupt about-face. The West Orange (N.J.) product joined the Nets in June 2019.
One has to wonder if Boston’s well-documented difficult historical past with race performed a job in him leaving town.
Irving’s shut pal Brett Carroll revealed in a to-be-released ebook “Can’t Knock the Hustle” that the guard had issues about Beantown’s racial historical past.
“And then he also realized, ‘Wait a minute. I’m trying to champion Boston, but now that I’m looking at the history of Boston, is this a city that I want to champion?’ ” Carroll wrote. “In terms of their racial history and stuff like that … is Boston the type of place I want to represent?”
Ultimately the reply was no. Or, at the very least Irving wished to symbolize Brooklyn extra, which made him anathema in Boston.
Irving missed the Nets’ two journeys to TD Garden final season with a shoulder damage. Before the March 3, 2020, recreation, followers hung footage of him out on Causeway Street with the label COWARD and his face photoshopped because the Cowardly Lion. After tipoff, many chanted profanities about Irving.
This season, he scored 37 in a Christmas Day laugher in Boston, however it was performed with out followers as a consequence of COVID-19, as was the Nets’ preseason win in TD Garden simply days earlier.
This weekend’s return was sure to get nasty. But Irving’s feedback stirred the pot and threw in flaming oil for good measure.
Still, this isn’t a brand new dialogue.
Bill Russell — who tried to get out of getting his jersey retired by Boston for a similar motive — as soon as dubbed town “a flea market of racism.” Outfielders Torii Hunter and Adam Jones have each recounted being known as the N-word a number of instances by Red Sox followers at Fenway, with Hunter placing a no-trade clause in his contract to keep away from being despatched there.
DeMarcus Cousins stated a TD Garden fan used racist language towards him in 2019, with the fan getting banned for 2 years.
Ex-Celtic Kendrick Perkins stated throughout NBC Sports Boston’s postgame protection Tuesday “I’ve never heard any player while I was playing … we haven’t heard of any incidents of racism going on, not in my generation.”
Apparently generations earlier than and since have. Even present Celtics guard Marcus Smart opened up within the Players Tribune about racism he’s suffered in Boston, together with being known as the N-word by a Celtic fan proper outdoors TD Garden.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens addressed Irving’s feedback Wednesday on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Zolak & Bertrand” present.
“People shouldn’t ever feel like they’re being discriminated against. But I think that everybody is dialed into that now,” stated Stevens. “That hasn’t been delivered to my consideration that that’s occurred, perhaps however a few times since I’ve been right here, and it was handled instantly.
“But maybe it’s happened and guys haven’t talked about it. And certainly, Kyrie had never mentioned anything to me about it, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And I think that those things should always be taken really seriously.”