Kyrie Irving wasn’t at Fenway Park on Tuesday (we guess), but fans took notice.
For two games in a row, chants of “F— Kyrie!” it broke out during a Red Sox game. On Tuesday, a audible The serenade could be heard on the NESN broadcast in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The day before, cell phone footage picked up an even louder chant.
Irving was fined $50k on Tuesday after upsetting fans multiple times at the TD Garden during Game 1 of the Nets’ series against the Celtics. Irving scored 39 points and nearly led the Nets to victory, but Jayson Tatum’s spinner layup as time expired propelled the Celtics to a 1-0 series lead.
Throughout the night, Irving and Celtics fans exchanged criticism. Later, Irving said that he was just giving back the same energy that he received.
“It’s not for every fan,” Irving said. “I don’t want to attack every Boston fan, but when people start yelling ‘P—-‘, and ‘B—- and ‘F— you’ and all these other things, there’s only so much you can take as a competitor, and we are expected to be meek, humble and take a humble approach.
“Nah, f— that. It’s the playoffs. This is what it is. … If someone is going to call me by my name, I will look him straight in the eye and see if he is really interested. Most of the time they are not.”
Irving then exchanged views with a reporter about the term “hostility.” The reporter noted that upsetting fans seemed like hostility on some level. Irving repeatedly insisted that the interactions were not hostile.
“Accept it,” he finally said. “It’s the dark side. Hug him.”
If anyone understands what Irving is going through, it’s teammate Kevin Durant. Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors in 2016, a decision that was widely criticized in the NBA and turned the narrative against Durant for the first time since he was drafted. Durant eventually also left Golden State to join the Nets.
Regardless, Durant had to learn to deal with the negative attention, and on Tuesday he broke down what Irving is going through for reporters.
“Some days he may be willing to do it, other days he may not,” Durant said. “But he understands what his job entails and he understands what the situation is. He may not be in the mood for the next match, who knows. It’s just a feeling thing. You never know what can provoke you in the moment, someone saying something to make you react. NBA playoff crowds tend to try to pick on players, especially those who recently played for their team.
“So we all understand those things. Kyrie’s reaction was his reaction, and we all fell behind him. I’m sorry exactly what he said: it’s the same energy that they’re giving him, he’s giving it back.”
Irving, of course, had two lackluster seasons in Boston. In 2017-18, he was injured because of the Celtics’ deep postseason run. In 2018-19, the Celtics were one of the most disappointing teams in the league. Toward the end of his tenure, it became increasingly clear that he wasn’t happy and that the Celtics’ dreams of pairing him with Anthony Davis would likely crumble.
“It’s rooted in love,” Durant said. “Once they loved you, once they cheered you on and bought your merchandise. I had life changing experiences coming to the games and watching you play. So when that’s ripped out of them with something like demanding a trade or wanting to leave, it feels like a part of them is gone as well.”
Celtics fans may dispute Durant’s claim that boos are “rooted in love,” but there’s no question Celtics fans seem to feel something was ripped out, even if it was just the potential for a big association in Boston.
“It’s an emotional bond that they have with professional sports, and they say that’s the gift and the curse of having a team in the city where you grew up,” Durant said. “That shows that people care, that people have emotions, and that people really respect and admire who we are as individuals. Sometimes it gets a little dark and deep, but that’s how the human brain works. We understand all of that, and the fans also understand where we’re coming from because we have our own platforms and we talk about things like this.
“It’s healthy once everyone understands both sides.”
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