There's a popular meme of a woman yelling in one frame while being held back, and in the other frame, there's a white cat sitting at a dinner table. It's...confusing, to say the least. Personally, I have always assumed that it's from one of Bravo's "Real Housewives" shows. I'd need a fan of those shows to educate me further on what exactly is going on in this situation.
I must think there are several people right now curious about what is driving the drama between Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics in their first-round series. I, like most humans, am no expert on what goes on between the ears of Mr. Irving. However, I am a Boston Celtics fan and am well qualified to explain our side. So...
Why Do Celtics Fans Hate Kyrie Irving?
How much time do you have?
In all seriousness, the trade that brought Irving to the Celtics was a, pardon the pun, slam dunk. The Celtics and then General Manager Danny Ainge have been criticized for the seemingly callous way the trade was handled. Boston was trading away Isaiah Thomas, who had been the focal point of the Celtics' rebuild after the team dealt Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets.
Thomas averaged 25 points and 6 assists in 179 games for Boston. He also played during the 2017 playoffs while dealing with a hip injury and grieving over the tragic death of his sister.
Sports fans want to see that their favorite player will put it all on the line for their team. Isaiah Thomas did everything Celtics fans could have ever asked for in that regard. And it was still a good move to trade him for Kyrie Irving.
Irving was three years younger, had made two more NBA All-Star teams, made a Finals-winning shot and was a walking ESPN highlight. Coupling Irving with the signing of free-agent Gordon Hayward in the Summer of 2017 was franchise-altering. Just not in a good way.
Hayward broke his foot/leg almost immediately after the season started. And from there, curious things about Irving began to come to light. The next five things lay out why Celtics fans began to dislike the dynamic point guard.
Kyrie Didn't Attend Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals
Yeah, this was weird. Despite not having Hayward, the Celtics still won 55 games, including a 16-game winning streak early in the season led by Irving (probably his best moment as a Celtic). Unfortunately, Irving would be shut down on March 11 with a knee injury and had season-ending surgery.
Boston would then go on a deep NBA Playoffs run led by a young core of Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier (filling in for Irving). They would make it all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals vs. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Everyone in Boston was amped up for this game. Do you know who wasn't in TD Garden, or even in the city of Boston for this monumental game? Kyrie Irving. He supposedly missed the game while recovering from surgery for a deviated septum.
It was...odd. And things just got worse from there.
Kyrie's False Promises
The worst thing Kyrie ever did as a Celtic came at a pre-season event. He was an impending free agent that summer and everyone wanted him to resign in Boston. Irving decided to tell the crowd that if the city/organization would have him, he planned on resigning here.
As you can tell, he did not.
For someone who clearly views himself as an intellectual, this was a massive miscalculation. Yes, players have promised to resign in free agency with teams in the offseason and not followed through. This isn't a Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors situation, either. Doing it in a select number of cities (with Boston being a major one) is a worse choice than drinking milk in hot weather.
Look, playing in Boston is not easy. Expectations are not realistic and it's a small enough place where you can imagine being able to "hide" in public as a celebrity is a non-starter. If you listen to the athletes who have succeeded here though, there are very few places, if any, that are better to play in.
Boston loves its players. But if you take advantage of that and play with fans' emotions/loyalty, well that's as good an idea as peeing into the wind.
Kyrie might have meant what he said in the moment, but every action he took after seemed to be to the contrary. And Boston doesn't forget. Especially if you go to New York.
Kyrie Expressed His Love at All-Star Weekend
The 2018-19 Celtics were not what they were supposed to be. A team adding a healthy Kyrie and Gordon Hayward to a roster that almost made the Finals was supposed to be a juggernaut. They were less enjoyable to watch than paint dry.
The Celtics were 37-21 but fourth in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star break. Anyone who had watched a second of this team knew something was off. It was not all on Kyrie, but he also wasn't being the leader the team needed. A loss to the Orlando Magic in January put that front and center when he outwardly chastised Hayward over a failed last-second play.
At All-Star Weekend, Irving and fellow impending free agent Kevin Durant all but went on a picnic together to showcase their high-level friendship. Rumors flew of this meet-up, setting the groundwork for an eventual team partnership. Celtics fans were left feeling like the two also hosted a Ted Talk that weekend on how Larry Bird was overrated.
The Curious Case of Guarding Giannis
The Celtics finished as the 4th seed in the East in the Spring of 2019. Things were looking up when they swept the Indiana Pacers in the first round. Irving was especially sharp, averaging a 23 points in the series and shooting 42 percent from 3. Game 1 of their next matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks went even better as Boston won 112-90 behind Kyrie's 26-point, 7-rebound, 11-assist performance.
Then, things changed.
In four straight losses covering Game 2 through Game 5, the Celtics would lose by an average of 16 points. Irving would average a 19 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and shoot an astoundingly poor 19 percent from 3. At this point, it was difficult to feel like Kyrie was not phoning in his remaining time wearing green.
The weirdest part? The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Irving called off his larger teammates so he could be the one to defend the 6-foot-11 242-pound Giannis Antetokounmpo. This did not go well. Luckily for Celtics fans, the series was over very quickly.
Irving would officially be done with Boston less than two months later when he signed a four-year, $141 million contract with the Nets.
Irving continued to talk about his time in Boston with less than positive comments after he joined his new team. He also was not "welcomed" by his former fans when he returned to play the Celtics in Boston for the first time.
This is to be expected for any rough separation between player and team.
What took it a step further was when the Nets swept the Celtics in the 2021 playoffs. Irving's exclamation point on the series was stomping on the Lucky, the Celtic's logo, on Boston's court.
Which begs the question...
Why is Kyrie Irving Mad at Celtics Fans?
You tell me!
Go back to Kyrie's failed promise. We wanted him to stay. We were ecstatic when he said he would.
Even when the 2018-19 season was a dumpster fire that was uncomfortable and awkward from start to finish, we still wanted Kyrie back. Sure, the allure of his return had dimmed somewhat. But that was motivated largely by Kyrie walking back his "I'll stay if you'll have me" comments and his outward flirting with a Durant alliance.
If Kyrie had signed that four-year deal with Boston in June of 2019, Celtics fans would have been pumped. We're the ones who wanted things to go differently and didn't get what we wanted. Kyrie made his decision, so why is he so mad at a fan base that wanted to keep him?
Sure, the fans have been less than courteous to Kyrie since then, with chants of "We Want Kyrie" and worse, and showering Irving with boos any chance they can. This is professional sports, though. This is what Kyrie signed up for. He gets paid millions of dollars to be the Nets' star and while that doesn't mean he can be treated however fans want; it also means if someone says "You suck" then you need to let it go.
Giving the crowd the middle finger (multiple times), making crying faces and obscene gestures and cussing out fans on your way to the locker room is not an appropriate response. Especially when you chose to leave after telling everyone you wanted to stay.
After Game 1, Irving said about his behavior, "It's not every fan, I don't want to attack every fan, every Boston fan. When people start yelling 'p—-y' 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."
Again, fans shouldn't be allowed to say whatever they want to players and these words cross the line. But if Kyrie expects us to believe this is the only crowd that cheers against him like this when he enters the building, I'm dubious. Maybe he should ask Ben Simmons about his return to Philadelphia.
There are five sides to every story though, and Kyrie obviously feels differently. He might even have a good reason for why he is so sensitive about how he's treated in Boston, and why he's reacted like he has. Until he shares those reasons more in detail, we can only look at this from the Celtics fans' side. You can now understand why Celtics fans lost their minds at the buzzer of Game 1.
Oh, and just a reminder to Kyrie. You scored 39 points in Game 1 and shot 60 percent from three, and you lost. Good luck in Game 2, buddy!
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