MNO Sports >MMA Arena >Kyrie Irving on his last visit to Boston, 'That wasn't a great reflection of who I am' - NBC Sports

Kyrie Irving on his last visit to Boston, 'That wasn't a great reflection of who I am' - NBC Sports

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Kyrie Irving’s path always seems to lead back to Boston.

He played two seasons for the Celtics and was the guy who stood at center court in the TD Garden, microphone in hand, in October of 2018 and said, “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here.” That next July, he joined Kevin Durant signing in Brooklyn — and his Nets faced the Celtics twice in the playoffs. Brooklyn won in 2021, a series where a Boston fan was arrested for throwing a water bottle at Irving, but it was Boston that won in 2022 — the series where Irving was fined for flipping off the Celtics fans.

Now he is back as one of the leaders of the Dallas Mavericks, who tip off the NBA Finals Thursday night in the Garden. Irving said, however, he has grown as a person since his previous visits to Boston in the postseason. Here’s his quote via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“I think I’m better at consolidating kind of the emotions now or being aware of what it’s going to be like,” Irving said after the Mavericks’ Monday practice. “We call it animosity, we call it hate, we call it, ‘It’s going to be hell in Boston.’ I mean, there are real, live circumstances going on in the world that are bigger than the basketball, kind of the competitive side of things and answering those questions.

“But I will say last time in Boston, I don’t think that was the best -- not this regular season, but when we played in the playoffs and everyone saw me flip off the birds and kind of lose my s--- a little bit -- that wasn’t a great reflection of who I am and how I like to compete on a high level. It wasn’t a great reflection on my end towards the next generation on what it means to control your emotions in that type of environment, no matter what people are yelling at you.

“I’m built for these moments, to be able to handle circumstances like that, and I’ve been able to grow since then. So of course 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 almost think about ‘Gladiator,’ just winning the crowd over. It is good to hear the TD Garden silent when you’re playing well. They still respect great basketball.”

To hear Irving talk this postseason is to listen to an elder statesman, someone with perspective, a mature player who has been at the top of the mountain and the bottom of the valley. He sounds like someone in a good place to handle all that will be thrown at him these Finals, adding that it was fair to criticize his time in Boston. While a lot of fans seem to be waiting for the other shoe to drop, Irving himself seems balanced.

How all of this will play out remains to be seen — this shapes up to be a close and intense Finals — but Irving does not sound like a guy who will be rattled by any of it anymore.

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