Let me start this off by saying that I am a Boston Celtics fan. Diehard. Bleed green. All of that jazz. The problem is, many fellow Celtics fans are probably not going to like what I am about to say.
It’s about Kyrie Irving.
Yes, the guy who is public enemy No. 1 in Boston and who basically quit on his team in the playoffs (let’s call it for what it is) before bolting to sign with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency, a decision that many saw coming all along.
Naturally, C’s fans hold a whole lot of malice, hostility, vitriol and any other synonym for hate that you can think of for Irving.
And in a way, I get it. No one can deny that he played a starring role in destroying the Celtics’ locker room this year, sabotaging what should have been a championship season and turning it into a three-ring circus that ended up winning just 49 games (how they even won that many games will of all of that toxicity is a miracle in and of itself) and getting unceremoniously bounced by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the playoffs.
To make matters worse, the division-rival Toronto Raptors went on to win the title, taking advantage of a compromised Warriors team that Boston would have had the opportunity to take advantage of in the same way had things not gone completely haywire.
And yes, Irving took the mic at TD Garden to kick off the season and announced to the crowd that he would return to Boston as long as Boston wanted him back, which was obviously a pretty severe misplay on his part given that he then said “ask me July 1st” a mere three-and-a-half months later.
So it’s understandable for Celtics fans to hold ill will toward Irving, and any other fanbase that tries to say otherwise should really keep their nose out of it and mind matters that concern their own team. Fans have every right to feel a certain way about a player. Just ask Oklahoma City.
But there comes a point where it becomes a bit much and a bit too over the top, and that is what we are seeing when it comes to New England and Kyrie Irving.
Of course, the first comparison that Celtics fans will make is Ray Allen, but what Irving did is not even remotely close to Allen’s departure back in 2012. And yet, Boston seems to be treating him in a similar fashion.
If anything, Al Horford’s decision to sign with Philadelphia was actually closer to Allen’s situation. You know, the same Al Horford who was always loved in Boston and is actually escaping relatively unscathed in spite of heading to the team’s most hated Eastern Conference rival (at the moment) while Irving takes the brunt of the damage for merely deciding to go home.
The fact of the matter is that Irving was only in Boston for two years. Heck, if you want to be technical, he was really only even present in game action for a year-and-a-half, as a knee procedure knocked him out of the stretch run during the 2017-18 campaign and kept him out of those playoffs (unquestionably costing the Celtics a trip to the finals in the process).
Irving did not Ray Allen the Celtics. He did not join their most hated rival. He did not leave after an extended period of time and after going through countless wars with his teammates. He is just a strange, eccentric guy who decided to join the team he grew up rooting for.
Now, Irving is so erratic that he might decide in two years that he does not enjoy playing in Brooklyn either and might then demand a trade to the Atlanta Hawks or something weird like that, because that’s just who he is. But who cares?
People said all year long that the Celtics were better off without Irving. Well, now, he’s gone, and he was replaced by a very similar player in Kemba Walker who is undoubtedly a more stable character and a far superior locker room presence.
So what’s the problem? Do we really need to pile on Irving?
Not to mention the fact that the issues that plagued the C’s this season were not all Kyrie’s fault to begin with. Sure, he does deserve the bulk of the blame, but Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier didn’t make it easy, either, as their egos clearly got in the way of what should have been an incredible season, and Brad Stevens could have done a better job of reining everyone in as the head coach.
Irving is gone as a quick as he came, and let’s remember that he never really wanted to come to Boston in the first place. He signed off on the trade during the summer of 2017 just to get out of LeBron’s shadow in Cleveland, but the Celtics were never his first, second or third choice.
Heck, had it not been for Kyrie’s knee injury, things almost certainly would have been different. In a way, Boston’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals without him was the worst thing that could have happened to the C’s, as a “psh, we don’t need him” attitude absolutely permeated the locker room upon his return back in October.
But it’s over now, and the Celtics are never going to have to deal with Irving again aside from the four times they face him during the season and any potential playoff matchups.
Irving was never really a Celtic. He never really wanted to be in Boston. He didn’t betray the team. He never wanted to be a part of it to begin with. So, for that reason, I find it difficult to act any way other than indifferent toward him as he takes his next step.
When Irving returns to Boston for the first time next season, he will assuredly be serenaded with a chorus of boos, and that shouldn’t happen. If you really want so show Kyrie your feelings, simply not reacting is the best way.
As Elie Weisel once said, the opposite of hate is not love. It’s indifference.
Kyrie Irving has done nothing to deserve this much resentment.
I am a Celtics fan, but I am also a reasonable one who understands that Irving doesn’t matter anymore.
Instead of wasting time hating Irving, how about welcoming Kemba? How about being excited about Tatum, Brown and Marcus Smart? How about looking forward to the next chapter?
You don’t have to wish Irving well, and you certainly don’t have to cheer him, but let’s knock off the irrational hatred. He was here two years. He never mattered that much, anyway, and 30 years from now, we will have to look up his player page on Basketball Reference to even remember that he once played for the Boston Celtics.