When the clock struck 6 p.m. on June 30, Kyrie Irving was one of the first of many stars to leave his incumbent team, bringing his tumultuous tenure in Boston to an equally ignominious end. It was hardly a surprise. His time with the Celtics had been haunted not only by rumors of locker-room turmoil, but by the specter of the team’s undeniable success in his absence.
The notion of him being the root of their past chemistry problems has only gained more traction as the Celtics have raced out to a blistering start with Kemba Walker now at the helm. So you’ll have to forgive fans in Boston if they were champing at the bit to pelt their former enigmatic point guard with a hailstorm of jeers as they hosted the visiting Nets on Wednesday night.
The only problem was that Irving didn’t travel with the team as he continues to recover from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the past few weeks and kept him out of what would’ve been his first return to TD Garden to face his former team. But that certainly didn’t stop the home crowd from letting Irving know just how they feel.
Irving obviously paid attention, because he took to Instagram after the game for a lengthy response that touched on all sorts of topics, both directly-related and otherwise.
Kyrie Irving speaks pic.twitter.com/k5hE7mHf9W
— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) November 28, 2019
Somewhere in all that is a cohesive point about keeping things in their proper perspective and treating one another with respect and not giving into mob mentality, which are all admirable sentiments, particularly in the social media age when the temptation to dehumanize one another for the sake of spectacle or cheap laughs is sometimes too great to resist. As we continue to learn more about mental health and have players opening up about their struggles, there is something to be said about fans looking in the mirror to take stock of their actions when it comes to how players are treated.
At the same time, Irving is also savvy enough to understand that this is part of the game and part of fandom, part of what makes the NBA compelling. Still, neither the boos nor his response were at all surprising. Maybe a little greater self-awareness will be in store for the next phase of Irving’s ongoing evolution, but also there are things for fans to consider about their actions and things they say towards players.