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 faithful since his controversial exit from the Celtics.
After Tuesday's Game 2 blowout, 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."
Boston has a troubled history with racism, particularly as it relates to the NBA. Vandals infamously broke into Celtics legend Bill Russell's home in 1963, spray-painted racial slurs on his walls and defecated in his bed. During the 2018-19 season, the Celtics banned a young fan who "verbally abused" DeMarcus Cousins for two years from TD Garden. The then-Golden State Warriors center said the fan called him the N-word.
Responding to the incident, 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."
Irving left Boston at the end of that season to join the Brooklyn Nets, eight months after publicly informing Boston's season-ticket holders he intended to re-sign with the Celtics. In an arena that is a week removed from chanting "f*** you" at Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook, Irving will hear from the crowd. And following his comments on Tuesday, exactly what he hears will be a subject of much scrutiny Friday night.
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