When his Brooklyn Nets travel to Boston for Game 3 of their first-round series on Friday night, Kyrie Irving will make his first appearance in front of the TD Garden crowd for the very first time since his controversial exit from the Celtics.
Irving offered some advice for what is sure to be a hostile Boston crowd.
“Hopefully we can just keep it strictly basketball,” Irving told reporters after scoring 15 points in the win. “There’s no belligerence or any 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 I’m just going to focus on what I can control.”
Asked if he has experienced racism in Boston, the seven-time All-Star said, “I’m not the only one that could attest to this, but it’s just, you know — it is what it is.” He laughed and added, “The whole world knows it.”
A few years ago, the Celtics banned a young fan who “verbally abused” DeMarcus Cousins for two years from TD Garden after he said the fan called him the N-word.
Irving said in 2019, “Coming to Boston has been an eye-opening experience for me, just getting an experience to know Boston. I haven’t really heard too much about stuff like that. But hearing about it, it’s a little saddening, just to happen, not just in Boston, but just as an NBA player, hearing another NBA player going through something like that is just terrible. Or any athlete, hearing racial slurs. But racism still exists in our society. It happens every day. I don’t want to limit it just to us athletes. A lot of people go through a lot of racial tension. So, it’s a terrible thing in our society, racism in general.”
Eight months after he infamously told Celtics season-ticket holders he would re-sign with the team, Irving left Boston and joined the Brooklyn Nets.
I think it’s safe to say the Boston crowd can’t wait to heckle him.