Kyrie Irving believes he has a “healthy relationship” with Celtics fans


Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving knows what to anticipate when he returns to TD Garden on Thursday night.

The former Celtics star was long considered some of the unpopular athletes in Boston sports history, especially after he left the Celtics as a free agent in 2019.

Add to that the many confrontations during playoff games at TD Garden when he played for the Nets, and it's almost certain that each time Irving steps onto the court through the NBA Finals, the boos will ring out.

There have been several unlucky moments in Irving's last two playoff series against Boston – be it a fan throwing a water bottle at his head after Game 4 in 2021, Irving stepping on the Celtics logo at halftime after the identical game, or Irving giving the gang the center finger in Game 1 in 2022.

Speaking to reporters in Dallas on Monday, Irving discussed his past trips to Boston and his own behavior during those two playoff series.

“I think I'm better now at consolidating the emotions or being aware of what it's going to be like,” Irving told reporters. in response to Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “We call it hostility, we call it hatred, we call it, 'All hell is going to break loose in Boston.' I mean, there are real, current circumstances in the world that are bigger than basketball, so to speak, the competitive side of things and answering those questions.

“But I even have to say, the last time in Boston, for my part, was not one of the best – not in that regular season, but once we played within the playoffs and everybody saw me flip the bird and lose it a bit bit – that was not a great reflection of my personality and the best way I compete at a high level.

“To me, that was not a good sign of what it means to keep your emotions under control in that environment, no matter what people are shouting at you.”

Irving will attempt to laugh on the Celtics and their fans in the approaching weeks. A victory over Boston, with the title at stake, could be one of the best revenge for him in a market that has no sympathy for him.

“I'm built for moments like this, to be able to handle circumstances like this, and I've been able to evolve since then,” Irving added, in response to MacMahon. “Obviously 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'm almost thinking 'Gladiator,' just to get the crowd going. It's nice to hear the silence in TD Garden when you play well. They still have respect for great basketball.”

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