Kyrie Irving admits he's 'on the outs' returning to Boston for Game 5: 'I did it to myself'

BOSTON — If nothing else, the 2024 NBA Finals have been one, long reflection period for Kyrie Irving about his time with the Celtics.

And on Sunday, the day before Boston could maybe beat Irving’s Dallas Mavericks and win its 18th title, Irving said he didn’t buy into the lore and culture of the Celtics upon being traded here from Cleveland in the summer of 2017.

“That’s what they expect you to do as a player — they expect you to seamlessly buy into the Celtics pride, buy into everything Celtics, and if you don’t, you’ll be outed,” Irving said. “I’m one of the people that’s on the outs. … I did it to myself. They don’t welcome me with a warm embrace.”



Boston, blow-up dolls and boos: Irving opens up about Celtics fans

Irving’s matchup against his former team in the finals is one of the several good subplots of this series, and for the most part, it hasn’t gone well for Irving. He’s averaging 21.0 points, isn’t shooting well, and overall the Mavericks trail 3-1. Then again, Irving managed 35 points in a close loss in Game 3, and his Mavericks broke a personal string for him of his teams having lost 13 straight to the Celtics since he left Boston.

Now the series shifts back to TD Garden, where Irving knows he is going to hear “Kyrie sucks” chants that cascaded from the rafters in Games 1 and 2 of the finals, which he admitted were distracting to him.

“Let’s call it what it is, when the fans are chanting ‘Kyrie sucks’ or anything, they feel like they have a psychological edge — and that’s fair,” Irving said. “If I’m not making shots or turning the ball over, that makes it even more of a pressing issue that they can stay on me for. So I think in order to silence even the self doubt, let alone the crowd doubt, but the self doubt when you make or miss shots, that’s just as important.”



Boston fans have booed former stars. Kyrie Irving’s return is different

The motivation for all the Kyrie taunting and jeering by the Boston crowd, well, that can be traced to Irving’s last of two seasons with the Celtics, when he first said he would sign a long-term extension, then clashed with teammates and coaches, pulled back his promise, disengaged in the playoffs, and left as a free agent. And then when he returned to Boston as a member of the Brooklyn Nets, he burned sage to “cleanse the energy” of the arena — which also didn’t exactly endear him to the local fans.

But Irving said his mistakes with how he conducted himself in Boston trace back to the trade — a trade he also demanded of Cleveland. Only, he didn’t ask specifically to be dealt to the Celtics.

“It wasn’t one of my options, it wasn’t like No. 1 on my list,” Irving said. “So when the trade opportunity got approached to me, instead of going back and appreciating the Celtics’ history, I just came in with an open mind and just kind of like, all right, I’m just going to go with the flow into this. But I think that was the wrong approach.”

Specifically, Irving said he should have embraced the organization’s 17 titles, and authors of those championships who are still alive and connected to the team. He reiterated what he has been saying now for nearly two weeks — that at age 32 and having learned from his tumultuous years stretching from his trade demand in Cleveland basically until he joined the Mavericks last year, he realizes he was not in a place personally when he was with the Celtics to manage the expectations on him.

“That’s what I was talking about in terms of accepting the choices (he made),” Irving said. “But looking back, I would have shown my respect and have more of a council around me from some of the Boston Celtics that came before me to explain what the pressure is like.”

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(Photo: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

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