Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving flipped off several Celtics fans in Boston during Sunday’s playoff opener, and the NBA star warned that hecklers can expect more of the same throughout the first-round series.
Speaking after he yielded the deciding basket to the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum in Boston’s thrilling 115-114 Game 1 win, Irving described his hand gestures as part of a tit-for-tat exchange with rude fans.
‘Look, where I’m from, I’m used to all these antics and people being close nearby,’ the New Jersey native and former Celtics star said after pouring in a team-high 39 points in the Game 1 loss. ‘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,’ Irving continued. ‘When people start yelling ‘p**** 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.’
Before an inbounds pass, Kyrie Irving flashed both middle fingers to the crowd behind his head during the stoppage in play
Irving (right) yielded the deciding basket of Sunday’s 115-114 loss to the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum
Irving was seen giving fans a one-finger salute on his way back down the court after hitting one of his game-high six three-pointers on Sunday. Later, before an inbounds pass, Irving flashed both middle fingers to the crowd behind his head during the stoppage in play.
And when one Celtics fan yelled ‘Kyrie, you suck’ as the Nets guard walked to the locker room, Irving snapped back, ‘suck my d***, b****,’ as seen on a viral TikTok video.
Amid the abuse, Irving was also seen sarcastically pretending to cry as he mimed wiping away tears.
This isn’t Irving’s first incident with jeering fans this month. He confronted a Knicks supporter in New York on April 6 before later admitting: ”I think I tapped the wrong person, so I apologize to the random guy that I tapped.’
Irving has become a controversial figure around NBA arenas following his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The seven-time All-Star played only 29 of 82 games this season due to a local New York City mandate, for which he was ultimately given an exemption, and the team’s decision to hold him out of practice and road games, which the club reversed in late December.
When one Celtics fan yelled ‘Kyrie, you suck’ as the Nets guard walked to the locker room, Irving snapped back, ‘suck my d***, b****,’ as seen on a viral TikTok video
But Boston’s disdain for Irving is far deeper than any objections over his vaccination status.
After two strong seasons with the Celtics, Irving walked back a pledge to re-sign with the team to ink a deal with the rival Nets, along with Kevin Durant, in July of 2019.
Last year, a Celtics fan was arrested and ordered to stay away from the city’s TD Garden after throwing a water bottle at Irving at a playoff game on June 2. Irving had previously accused the city of ‘subtle racism’ and had angered fans by stomping and scraping his foot across the Celtics logo earlier in that series.
‘I know what to expect in here,’ Irving said after Sunday’s game. ‘And it’s the same energy I’m giving back to them. It is what it is. I’m not really focused on it, it’s fun, you know what I’m saying? Where I’m from I’ve dealt with so much, so coming in here you relish it as a competitor. … This isn’t my first time at TD Garden so what you guys saw, what you guys think is entertainment, or the fans think is entertainment, all is fair in competition.
‘So if somebody’s going to call me out on my name, I’m gonna look at them straight in the eye and see if they really ’bout it. Most of the time they’re not.’
Irving had a team-high 39 points on Sunday while nailing 6 of 10 attempts from deep
Irving took offense to one question about his previous conflicts with fans, some of which also allegedly included him flashing his middle finger.
‘This is the first time you actually caught it because this is a big-time game,’ Irving said. ‘I respond in different ways. I’m not trying to focus on that. If you want to ask
Although Irving was beaten by Tatum’s game-winning, buzzer-beating layup, he played well otherwise, responding to the rough crowd with one of his best playoff performances.
‘Embrace it,’ Irving said of his response to the vitriol from Boston fans. ‘Embrace it. It’s the dark side. Embrace it.’
Irving not only made 12 of 20 field goals, including a 6-of-10 mark from three-point range, he also added six assists, five rebounds, and four steals.
Cole Buckley, a Celtics fan, is handcuffed and escorted out of TD Garden by police after allegedly throwing a water bottle at Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving as he left the court after Game 4 during an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, May 30, 2021, in Boston
‘This is a guy that’s made the game-winning shot in the Finals,’ Nets coach Steve Nash said. ‘He’s played in the Olympics. He’s played in the All-Star Game, All-Star Game MVP. I don’t know that there’s any atmospheres that are really gonna rattle him. … If he has an off night, he has an off night. I don’t think the crowd is a factor for Kyrie. This guy’s done about all you can do in the game.’
‘I don’t think he worries about it,’ Durant said. ‘I think he just plays his game and do what’s required out there. And tonight, the shot-making, just controlling the game for us, was incredible. And that’s what we’re going to need going forward — so matter where he’s at, I think he’s the same player.’
Irving, who once likened Celtics fans to a scorn ex-girlfriend, said he doesn’t want to dig up his history with Boston and prefers to focus on fixing his team’s issues and winning Game 2 on Wednesday night in Boston.
‘Don’t care at this point,’ Irving said. ‘Let’s get to the series and talk about our possessions and how we can get better. I’m not gonna focus on the past with Boston. I’m on the Brooklyn Nets. I’m happy to be with my teammates and competing out there.’
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (L) makes the winning shot past defending Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (R) in the final moments of the Eastern Conference First Round playoff game one between the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts