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NBA Finals 2024: Mavericks star Irving to display cool in heat of Boston hostility

The home crowd will be ready to give the former Boston man plenty of verbals on Friday night

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving says there will be no repeat of his angry interaction with the Boston Celtics crowd when he goes there as a Dallas Maverick in the NBA Finals.

Irving spent two seasons with the Celtics before departing for the Brooklyn Nets in 2019.

His subsequent visits in the play-offs have been hostile affairs, particularly in 2022 when the Nets lost a Game 1 clash that saw Irving flash his middle finger at the home crowd – an act for which he was fined $50,000.

Irving and the Mavs suit up in Boston for Game 1 on Friday night and Irving has vowed to show more restraint in the face of the expected hostility.

He said: “I think I’m better at consolidating the emotions now or being aware of what it’s going to be like. 

“Last time in Boston, I don’t think that was the best – not this regular season, but when we played in the play-offs and everyone saw me flip the bird 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.”

Reunion with Tatum and Brown

Irving admitted he could understand some of the anger towards him given he spent just two seasons in Boston. He remains proud of some of the things he did there, however, particularly his mentoring of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

“I know sometimes in sports, it’s literally about the end goal and result and what you accomplish, and that’s one thing,” he said. 

“But we’re still human at the end of the day. I wasn’t my best self during that time. When I look back on it, I just see it as a time where I learned how to let go of things and learned how to talk through my emotions.

“It was just a chapter in my life that I got to enjoy for the most part. We had a great opportunity to do some special things, but it was cut short, just based off personal reasons on my end. One thing I look back on my time in Boston – I’ve said this over the past few years, but somehow it gets tossed under the rug – but the greatest thing I learned from Boston was just being able to manage not only my emotions or just what’s going on on a day-to-day basis of being a leader of a team or being one of the leaders, and having young guys around you that have their own goals, but you have to learn how to put the big picture first.”

On Tatum and Brown, who will present a significant threat to the Mavericks over the seven-game series, Irving said: “This basketball stuff is going to be competitive.

”No matter what, we’re going to go at each other. But getting to know them as human beings, they’re really special people alongside other people that I got a chance to know in the Boston organisation.”

Picture of Jon Fisher

Jon Fisher

Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.