For once, Kyrie Irving is right.
For the second consecutive year, fan behavior at games has become a bigger story than the NBA playoffs themselves. And once again, Irving is at the center of it. Last season, a Celtics fan threw a bottle at him. We also watched as someone dumped popcorn on Russell Westbrook. Trae Young got spat on at Madison Square Garden. And like Irving, the Knicks’ Immanuel Quickley had something thrown at him. When it happened, I wrote that players should be allowed to knock some sense into the cowards. Unfortunately, Adam Silver didn’t take my advice. But, maybe if he had, we’d be talking about how magnificent Irving’s performance was on Sunday in a hostile environment, despite a terrible performance from Kevin Durant. However, we’re ignoring all that — and Jayson Tatum’s heroics — because what Irving did in response to fans (flipping them off) is “the bigger story.”
This is what happens in a post-Will Smith/Chris Rock world where it’s become quite clear who believes there should be consequences for the things you say, who doesn’t.
“Look, where I’m from, I’m used to all these antics and people being close nearby,” said Irving after dropping a game-high 39 points against his former team. “It’s nothing new when I come into this building what it’s going to be like — but it’s the same energy they have for me, I’m going to have the same energy for them.
“And it’s not every fan, I don’t want to attack every fan, every Boston fan. When people start yelling ‘p*ssy’ or ‘b*tch’’ and ‘f*ck 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*ck that, it’s the playoffs. This is what it is.”
If the last few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that America doesn’t like when Black people hit or flip the bird to people that deserve it. Violence is never the answer, even if it’s just a hand gesture, they say. But, when Black folks are on the receiving end of that violence, the outcry rarely occurs. Just ask Patrick Lyoya’s family, as police in Grand Rapids, Michigan killed him when they shot him in the head for nothing.
So, what are Irving and other players supposed to do about these idiot fans that seem to get bolder and more disrespectful each season? Allow the players to appropriately respond since slapping some sense into them doesn’t seem like it will be allowed. Besides, a few choice words between adults is a better alternative than what Irving’s critics have done when they were in his shoes.
“Please stop it you athletes today. Whining like little…,” said Charles Barkley.
Plot Twist: Here’s the part where I remind you that Barkley is the last person to tell anybody how to deal with fans. In 1991, he was fined $10,000 and suspended for a game because he spit at an 8-year-old girl. And here’s the link to a clip of Barkley telling fans to “shut the f*ck up” while he’s at the free-throw line.
Ironically enough, what happened between Irving and the fans in Boston took place on the same day in which the latest episode of HBO’s “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” premiered that depicted how disgusting fans have been in that city for decades, especially to Black athletes that played against, and for, their team. It was a reminder that the NBA has allowed these types of things to exist for so long that it’s become wildly unpopular and shocking for someone to recoil at the notion of not wanting to be treated like an animal at the zoo while doing their job.
But, Sunday was also a reminder that the No. 2 versus No. 7 matchup between the Celtics and Nets wouldn’t even be taking place right now if Irving wouldn’t have willingly missed all those games due to his stance against the vaccine and mandates. The Nets would be a higher seed and might have not played the Celtics at all.
Kyrie Irving made his bed and now he’s lying in it. I just think he should be allowed to cuss out the housekeeper that keeps sh*tting in his sheets. (Whispers) That’s what once happened to Bill Russell in Boston.