Kyrie Irving Defends Middle-Finger Gestures: ‘All Is Fair in Competition’

Kyrie Irving Celtics

Getty Images Kyrie Irving of the Nets looks for a pass around Al Horford of the Celtics

Former Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving got more than he bargained for in the Brooklyn Nets’ playoff-opening 115-114 loss to the Celtics. And when the smoke cleared, Irving had plenty to say about the atmosphere at Boston’s TD Garden and his giving the middle finger to fans.

After the game, Irving responded to a reporter’s question referencing the gesture, which came after Irving hit a 21-foot jumper with 2:18 left in the third quarter to cut the Celtics’ lead to 91-84.

“What you guys saw, what you guys think is entertainment — or the fans think is entertainment — all is fair in competition,” Irving said.

“Where I’m from, I’m used to all these antics and people being close nearby,” he said. “It’s nothing new when I come into this building, what it’s going to be like. But it’s the same energy they have for me, and I’m a have the same energy for them.

Irving, who finished with a game-high 39 points on 12 of 20 attempts, including 6 of 10 from deep, nearly willed his team to victory. He and the Nets erased a 15-point deficit, and his 3-pointer with 45.9 seconds left gave the Nets a 114-111 advantage.

But the Celtics converted a layup on their following possession and stopped Brooklyn on the opposite end of the floor before Marcus Smart found a cutting Jayson Tatum for the game-winning layup at the buzzer. Celtics now hold a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. Game 2 is April 20 at TD Garden.

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Irving Describes TD Garden Environment

Irving cut off a reporter who asked him about the constant booing and heckling: “It’s not hostility, bro. It’s basketball.”

“It’s not hostility,” Irving said of TD Garden’s constant booing and heckling while cutting off a reporter’s question. “It’s basketball.”

At another point in the game, Irving appeared to give the double middle finger to fans behind him. A reporter asked Irving whether he thought spectators had crossed the line.

“It’s not every fan. I don’t want to attack every fan, every Boston fan,” Irving said. “But when people start yelling “p****” or “b****” and “f*** you” and all this stuff, there’s only so much you can take as a competitor. And, we’re the ones expected to be docile and be humble and take a humble approach. Nah, f*** that, it’s the playoffs.

“This is what it is, you know. I know what to expect in here, and it’s the same energy I’m giving back to them. It is what it is. I’m not really focused on it. It’s fun.”

Irving on ‘Hostile’ Environment: ‘You Relish it’

For Irving, dealing with the Boston crowd is nothing new. Fans at TD Garden have been unfriendly to him ever since he backed out of his plan to re-sign with the Celtics in 2019, and Game 1 of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs was no different.

“Again, where I’m from, I’ve dealt with so much. So, coming in here, you relish it as a competitor,” Irving said. “This isn’t my first time at TD Garden. … If somebody going to call me out my name, I’m a look at them and see if they’re really about it. Most of the time, they’re not.”

Irving ‘Embracing’ the Dark Side

The seven-time All-Star said he wanted to talk only about the game, he reminded reporters. But when a reporter told Irving that it was the first time he had seen the star point guard behave in such a hostile manner, Irving said it wasn’t his first time.

“It’s the first time you actually caught it because it’s a big-time game,” Irving responded. “I respond in different ways. I’m not trying to focus on that. If you want to ask me questions about the fans, go ask them. Go in the street and ask them questions, all right?”

Game 2 on Wednesday at TD Garden shouldn’t be different for Irving. He said he is excited for another dose of Boston’s playoff atmosphere.

“Embrace it,” he said when asked about how he would channel the crowd’s energy. “Embrace it. It’s the dark side.”