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Kyrie Irving is returning to Boston to play in the NBA finals.

Source: David Berding / Getty

Kyrie Irving is no stranger to controversy and isn’t one to hold his tongue when it comes to issues he believes in. When Irving played in Boston and Brooklyn, he had some heavy criticisms from Celtics fans. 

Three years later, he’s returning to Boston as a member of the Dallas Mavericks to face his former team in the NBA Finals and the fans he once called out for their “subtle racism” towards him and his teammates.

Irving spent two years playing for the Boston Celtics before leaving to join Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets in 2019. 

The next year, Irving and the Nets met the Celtics in the NBA Playoffs where they took a convincing 2-0 lead in the seven-game series. Before the series headed to Boston, Irving expressed to the media that he hoped his return to Boston wasn’t tainted by fans being racist.

“Hopefully we can just keep it strictly basketball,” Irving said during the post-game press conference. “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.”

Kyrie added about his claims of racism in Boston: “I’m not the only one who could attest to this . . . but it’s just, it is what it is. The whole world knows it.”

During the next two games in Boston, Kyrie had multiple interactions with angry Celtics fans, including a fan being arrested for throwing a water bottle at him after Brooklyn’s Game 4 win.

But it didn’t stop there.

In 2022, Irving was fined  $50,000 for flashing his middle finger at Boston fans during the Nets’ Game 1 playoff loss in 2022, according to ESPN.

Now, Irving, who seems to be happy and thriving in his new environment said he had regrets about past interactions with Boston fans and is in a better place emotionally. 

“I think I’m better at consolidating kind of the emotions now or being aware of what it’s going to be like,” Irving told ESPN after the Mavericks’ Monday practice. “We call it animosity, we call it hate, we call it, ‘It’s going to be hell in Boston.’ I mean, there are real, live circumstances going on in the world that are bigger than the basketball, kind of the competitive side of things and answering those questions.”

He continued, “But I will say last time in Boston, I don’t think that was the best — not this regular season, but when we played in the playoffs and everyone saw me flip off the birds and kind of lose my s— a little bit — that wasn’t a great reflection of who I am and how I like to compete on a high level. It wasn’t a great reflection on my end towards the next generation on what it means to control your emotions in that type of environment, no matter what people are yelling at you.”

Irving also acknowledged his growth as a human since his short tenure in Boston and says he looks forward to the challenge.

“I’m built for these moments, to be able to handle circumstances like that, and I’ve been able to grow since then. So of course it’s going to be a hectic environment, but I’m looking forward to it and I see it as a healthy relationship that I have with the fans. I almost think about ‘Gladiator,’ just winning the crowd over. It is good to hear the TD Garden silent when you’re playing well. They still respect great basketball.”


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