There’s no love between Kyrie Irving and fans of the Boston Celtics. As Irving’s Brooklyn Nets take on Boston in a first round series in the 2022 NBA playoffs, the beef between the star point guard and one of the most passionate fanbases in sports is again in the spotlight.
Irving was sent to Boston after he requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers ahead of the 2017-18 season. Irving spent two seasons with the Celtics before leaving to sign with Brooklyn alongside Kevin Durant as a free agent in the summer of 2019. Celtics fans still hold a grudge against Irving for his two underwhelming seasons with the team, and Irving has responded by treating Boston fans the same way they treat him.
Whenever Irving returns to Boston, controversy always follows. The 2022 NBA Playoffs are no different. Here’s the latest on the feud between Irving and Boston, with context on their shared history that caused so much tension.
Kyrie Irving subtly flipped off Celtics fans after chants
Boston won a thriller in Game 1 vs. the Nets when Jayson Tatum hit a buzzer-beating layup. The Celtics’ victory overshadowed an incredible performance from Irving — 39 points and six assists — that will mostly be remembered for his interactions with the road crowd.
You could feel the hostility in the air from Celtics fans as soon as Irving walked into the arena. The antagonism only grew more noticeable as Irving hit jumper after jumper. There were loud “Kyrie sucks” chants going on throughout the game. While Irving was inbounding the ball at one point, he gave Celtics fans the middle finger behind his head. Watch the video here.
when u feel someone hating on ur fit from behind pic.twitter.com/7D9Rn8jaOc— Throwing Fits (@ThrowingFits) April 18, 2022
Of course, Irving’s gesture didn’t go unnoticed. After the game, Kyrie clarified what he was hearing from Boston fans and why he gave them the finger.
KYRIE: "When people start yelling p***y & b***h & f**k you & all this stuff, there’s only so much you can take as a competitor. We’re the ones expected to be docile & be humble & take a humble approach. Nah, f**k that. It’s the playoffs." pic.twitter.com/Xignyg9k8U— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) April 18, 2022
Here are Irving’s comments, transcribed.
“Look, where I’m from, I’m used to all these antics and people being close nearby,” Irving said after scoring a team-high 39 points in 42 minutes. “It’s nothing new when I come into this building what it’s going to be like — but it’s the same energy they have for me, I’m going to have the same energy for them.
“And it’s not every fan, I don’t want to attack every fan, every Boston fan. When people start yelling ‘p---y’ or ‘b----’ and ‘f--- you’ and all this stuff, there’s only but so much you take as a competitor. We’re the ones expected to be docile and be humble, take a humble approach, f--- that, it’s the playoffs. This is what it is.”
When Irving was walking into the locker room after the game, a Celtics fan yelled “Kyrie, you suck!”
Irving responded with an explicit comment you can watch here.
Kyrie LMFAO pic.twitter.com/0VECS2c2QR— (@WestbrookHas2Go) April 17, 2022
The history between Celtics fans and Kyrie Irving
Irving’s first season with the Celtics was going well initially. Boston headed into the All-Star break at 40-19 overall and in second place in the Eastern Conference despite an injury to Gordon Hayward in the first game of the season. Irving was having an excellent campaign, averaging 24 points per game while displaying his signature combination of shooting, scoring, and ball handling. Sharing the floor with rookie wing Jayson Tatum and second-year forward Jaylen Brown, Boston appeared to have one of the brightest futures in the league.
Then Irving suffered a knee injury and had to undergo surgery. While he was originally slated to return for the playoffs, he was eventually ruled out for the season. Without Irving, the young Celtics led the team on a shocking run to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing in seven games to Irving’s former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Boston was expected to be a powerhouse heading into the next season with Irving set to return heading into the final year of his contract. When asked if he would sign an extension to keep him in Boston, Irving said he would sign with the Celtics if they wanted to keep him.
The 2018-19 season was a frustrating one for Boston. The Celtics fell short of sky-high expectations as Irving at times beefed with his younger teammates.
Boston eventually grabbed the No. 4 seed in the East playoffs, and swept the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs. The Celtics then faced the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round, and won Game 1 behind 26 points from Irving. The Bucks responded by winning the next four games to eliminate Boston.
When the season was over, Irving decided to sign with the Nets alongside Durant.
Other incidents between Kyrie Irving and Boston fans
There’s always fireworks whenever Irving returns to Boston.
In his first road game against the Celtics after he joined the Nets, Irving walked around the arena with incense before the game.
Before the Celtics and Nets met in the first round of the 2021 playoffs, Irving said he hoped he didn’t hear any racism from the Boston fans during the series. Celtics fans have faced allegations of racism at times dating back to Bill Russell’s playing days in the ‘60s.
Kyrie Irving said he hopes he's not subject to racism coming back to play in Boston for the first time with fans in the stands at TD Garden #WBZ #Celtics pic.twitter.com/pdE3p8bQpx— Joe Giza (@JoeGiza) May 26, 2021
Here are Irving’s comments, transcribed.
“Hopefully we can just keep it strictly basketball,” Irving said. “There’s no belligerence or racism going on, subtle racism, and people yelling [expletive] from the crowd. 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.”
When the series started, a Celtics fan threw a water bottle at Irving, was kicked out of the game, and arrested.
Irving created a stir by “stomping” on the Celtics logo at halfcourt.
Kyrie appeared to step on the Boston logo as he greeted his teammates at half court postgame.— ESPN (@espn) May 31, 2021
(via @yornoc74) pic.twitter.com/thcXjX15He
There were again anti-Irving chants in Boston throughout Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs. The sideshow between the fanbase and Irving has become a distraction to a great series. Just don’t expect it to stop anytime soon.