Kyrie Irving has a tumultuous history with the city of Boston, to say the least.
The Celtics traded for Irving in 2017 after he forced his way out of Cleveland with the Cavaliers. It seemed like Irving liked his situation initially — he said that he wanted to actually stay in the city long-term.
Then he broke that pledge and moved on to Brooklyn where he is now. So, certainly, there’s no love lost between him and the team or the city.
Game 3 against the Celtics will mark the first time Irving will play in TD Garden with actual fans in the building since leaving the Celtics behind. He played there earlier in the preseason and once on Christmas Day, but fans weren’t allowed in the building because of the pandemic.
Irving was asked about what sort of welcome he might receive from fans upon his return. And he didn’t really know.
But he said he looked forward to competing and hoped things could be kept “strictly basketball” with no “belligerence or racism going on.”
Kyrie Irving addressed what it's like to play in Boston as an opponent and hopes it will be "strictly basketball" when the Nets travel for Games 3 and 4. https://t.co/c2DCWu372g pic.twitter.com/53aNUZLd8Y
— ESPN (@espn) May 26, 2021
“I am just looking forward to competing with my teammates and hopefully, we can just keep it strictly basketball; there’s no belligerence or racism going on — subtle racism and people yelling s*** from the crowd. 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.”
Yikes. He was also asked if that was something he experienced in Boston before. And he just shrugged and said “I’m not the only one who can attest to this.”
He’s not wrong. There have been instances where other athletes have had similar complaints about fans in Boston.
Marcus Smart has shared stories. Adam Jones was berated by racist taunts in 2017. Even Celtics’ legend Bill Russell once called the city a “flea market of racism.” Irving isn’t just pulling this out of thin air.
Hopefully, there’s none of that when he finally does play in front of Celtics fans in game 3.
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