Fans Let Kyrie Irving Have It, and He Responded in Kind

Nets star takes flak for flipping the bird in Boston
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2022 10:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Boston Celtics beat the Brooklyn Nets 115-114 Sunday in the first game of their playoff series, but much of the attention afterward was focused not so much on the game as on Kyrie Irving's middle fingers. The Nets star flipped off Boston fans on at least two occasions, reports ESPN. One time, he even pulled off a double-bird, as this tweet via TMZ shows. "The same energy they have for me, I'm gonna have the same energy for them," Irving told reporters afterward.

  • Criticism: "Man up," said player-turned-analyst Shaquille O'Neal in criticizing Irving for the gestures, per BasketballNetwork.net. Former NBA star Charles Barkley agreed. "Most of the fans are amazing," he said. "Some of them gonna say some rude stuff. Please stop it, you athletes today, whining like little ..."

  • Counter: At FortheWin, Chris Korman points out that O'Neal and Barkley didn't play in an age of ubiquitous cameras with fans who love to bait players. Korman also defends Irving for pushing back. "There are precisely zero valid reasons to yell obscenities at Kyrie Irving as he attempts to do his job," he writes. "There’s also no reason to expect him to not respond in kind, as he did Sunday evening in Boston, causing the usual commotion about athlete decorum."
  • Context: Irving used to play for Boston, and there's no love lost between him and fans. Last year in the playoffs, he stomped on the Celtics logo at the center of the court, notes Fox Sports. He also has accused Boston fans of racism.
  • More from Irving: "It's not every fan. I don't want to attack every Boston fan. When people start yelling {obscenities} and all this stuff, there's but so much you can take as competitor," he said Sunday. "We're the ones expected to be docile and be humble and take a humble approach. Nah ... it's the playoffs."
(Irving previously made headlines for his refusal to get vaccinated.)

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