As fate would have it, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving is facing his former team in the first round of the playoffs. And right off the bat, Irving let Boston Celtics fans know that he wasn’t having any of their antics. The star guard gave them a middle finger salute and isn’t apologizing for it.
“It’s the playoffs.”
After draining a tough jump shot at the 2:20-minute mark of the third quarter, Irving flashed his middle finger to the crowd as he jogged to the other side of the floor. After the Celtics’ 115-114 victory, Irving explained his antics to the media.
He mentioned what the Celtics fans yelled at him and why he decided to fight back. Besides, the postseason is a whole different world compared to the regular season. Emotions are meant to fly. Players are humans, too, who can be fraught with intense feelings.
“It’s the same energy they have for me, and I’m gonna have the same energy for them. And it’s not every fan. I don’t want to attack every Boston fan. But when people start yelling, ‘pus*y’ or ‘bit*h’ and ‘fu*k you’ and all that stuff, there’s only so much you can take as a competitor,” Irving said, per NBC Sports.
“This isn’t my first time at TD Garden.”
Irving’s two-year stint with the Celtics was a wild roller coaster ride. He was warmly embraced at first. After all, who wouldn’t want an elite guard on their roster? But when things did not pan out as expected, Celtics fans started harboring bitter feelings towards him. Every time Irving made the headlines due to an off-court controversy, Celtics fans took it as a chance to take a jab at the seven-time All-Star.
The one-time NBA champion is using his tumultuous history with the Celtics as fuel for his fire. On top of this, he knows how fans behave: they like to talk but step back when things are about to escalate. Irving is using these realizations to get the mental edge.
“I know what to expect in here, 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. Again, where I’m from, I’ve dealt with so much, so coming in here, you relish it as a competitor.”
“I’m gonna keep repeating myself: This isn’t my first time at TD Garden. So what you guys saw and what you guys think as entertainment or fans think as entertainment -- all is fair in competition. So, if somebody’s gonna call me out on my name, I’m gonna look at them straight in the eye and see if they’re really about it. Most of the time, they’re not,” Irving said.
Though the Celtics are the better team on paper, a good number of analysts have picked the Nets to win it. The reasons: Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant — two superstars who hold a wealth of playoff experience, not to mention three NBA championship rings between them.
It is all a matter of wait-and-see at this point. Game 1 could be an indication of how closely matched the two teams really are. Irving’s middle finger salute to the Celtics fans could be a sign that this isn’t just an ordinary playoff series for him.