As one of the NBA’s brightest stars, Kyrie Irving continually grabbed headlines over the course of the 2020-21 season.
He averaged nearly 27 points per game while becoming just the ninth player in NBA history to shoot over 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the foul line in a season. It’s not overstating it to call the 29-year-old’s 2020-21 campaign a historically great one. But the Nets’ postseason run ended with Irving watching in street clothes from the sideline, an ankle injury forcing him to miss a few huge games during Brooklyn’s second-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. In the end, that injury no doubt played a big part in Brooklyn’s undoing.
And then there were all of the off-the-court headlines about Irving. His early-season policy of refusing to talk to reporters. His time away from the team. His political statements. All of it worked to paint Irving in a certain light — ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski even referred to Irving as The Disruptor last year. But all of that is unfair judgement, at least according to one rival superstar.
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Jayson Tatum Backs up Kyrie
The Nets made quick work of the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. But even after being bounced by Brooklyn, Celtics star Jayson Tatum has Irving’s back.
“He’s misunderstood,” Tatum said recently during an appearance on Kicks’ Beyond The Press. “I’m sure there’s some things that he’s probably done or said that he has apologized for, but all of us, everybody has done things that they’re not proud of or said things they wish they (didn’t). (I) guess the world we live in everyone’s so quick to judge, which is unfair, because we just live in the spotlight. I’m sure if all those people who point fingers and talk about all of us on TV have to live in the spotlight and everything they said or did was national news, they wouldn’t be so perfect either.”
Indeed, it seems everything Irving does or says winds up as a topic of debate on sports talk shows.
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Irving Has Complicated History With Celtics
Irving, a seven-time All-Star, played two seasons with the Celtics between 2017-19, averaging 24.1 point and 6.1 assists over that span while going to two All-Star Games. But most recently, Irving’s relationship with Boston has been very much fractured — especially after what transpired during the Nets’ first-round playoff series against the Celtics.
As the Nets were exchanging high-fives near center court following their Game 4 win on May 30, Irving walked toward Boston’s logo and stomped on the face of “Lucky.” Not long after that, a fan threw a water bottle at Irving. The two incidents did not appear to be related. The fan was subsequently arrested and banned from TD Garden.
The fan’s actions were universally panned, to no surprise. But as for Irving’s logo-stomping, reactions were mixed.