The ongoing feud between Boston Celtics fans and Kyrie Irving has turned into the ugliest storyline of the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs. The star guard’s return to Boston for Game 1 of the series included loud anti-Irving chants from the crowd and a double-bird salute from the player that earned him a $50K fine. There’s a long history between Irving and Boston, and it doesn’t feel like the mutual animosity is going away any time soon.
Boston fans dislike Irving because he led a disappointing 2019 Celtics team before ultimately leaving the franchise in free agency to join the Nets. For his part, Irving has burned sage in TD Garden and created the world’s silliest controversy by stomping on the face of the Celtics’ logo. There aren’t many players in the NBA who can relate to the all-out resentment Irving is experiencing from the Boston crowd, but superstar teammate Kevin Durant certainly can.
Durant experienced similar hostility when he returned to face the Oklahoma City Thunder after he left the franchise for the Golden State Warriors in free agency. When asked about Irving’s experience with Boston fans, Durant offered a mature response: Celtics’ fans’ hatred of Irving is rooted in love because they once cheered for him. Watch his full comments below.
Kevin Durant on Celtics fans’ hostility toward Kyrie Irving: “It’s rooted in love. They once loved you…had life altering experiences coming to games watching you play. So when it gets ripped from them in a trade…it feels like a piece of them is gone too.” pic.twitter.com/P1b6jNnrDq
— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) April 19, 2022
Here’s Durant’s full response on Irving’s back and forth with Celtics fans in Game 1:
Some days he might be up for it, some days he might not. But he understands what his job entails and he understands what the situation is. He might not be in the mood for it next game, who he knows. It’s just a feel thing. You never know what may trigger you in the moment, somebody saying something to get you to react. NBA crowds in the playoffs tend to try to pick at players, especially ones that played for their team recently. So we all understand that stuff. Kyrie’s reaction was his reaction to him, and we all stood behind him. I feel him exactly what he said: it’s the same energy they’re giving off to him, he’s giving it right back. I have played that way. I think it’s all in the game. They come for the experience of watching the game, and you might have to get something back from one of the players if you say something. That’s just the nature of the beast now.
It’s rooted in love. They once loved you, once cheered for you, and bought your merchandise. Had life-altering experiences coming to games watching you play. So when that gets ripped from them with something like demanding a trade or wanting to leave, it feels like a piece of them is gone too. It’s an emotional attachment that they have to professional sports, and they say that’s the gift and the curse of having a team in your city where you grew up. That shows that people care, and people have emotions, and people really respect and admire who we are as individuals. Sometimes it gets a little dark and deep but that’s just how the human brain works. We understand all that, and the fans understand where we come from too because we have our own platforms and speak on stuff like this. It’s healthy once everyone understands both sides.
Durant understands that’s it natural for Celtics fans to be upset at Irving. They’re mad because they thought Irving was going to lead them to the NBA Finals in 2019 after a conference finals trip the season before when he was hurt. They’re mad because they feel like Irving quit on the team and refused to work well with his younger stars like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They’re mad because Irving went to Brooklyn after saying he was planning to re-sign with the Celtics before the year started.
Durant also understands that even superstar athletes can only take so much verbal heat. KD is one of the most active Twitter users among major celebrities, often roasting fans online the same way they try to roast him. At a certain point, star basketball players are human beings like anyone else, and listening to someone repeatedly disrespect you is a painful experience no matter how much money you have.
It would be great if Celtics fans would just let their beef with Kyrie go, but it’s not going to happen. Everyone involved understands this to be the case. Unfortunately for Irving, the reality is that when he reacts like he did in Game 1, it costs him $50K.
The longer this series goes on, the worse it’s going to get. If only keeping it to basketball wasn’t too much to ask.