The Brooklyn Nets lost to the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the opening round of the NBA playoffs 115-114. The stars on both teams showed out, and there were some familiar faces in this matchup, as Kyrie Irving goes against his former teammates Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. While maybe a year or two ago there would’ve been no love lost between them, Irving and Brown have since made amends with each other for how the situation in Boston played out.
Without the off-court animosity between the players to fuel this playoff series, fans would have to rely on great basketball and an anti-Kyrie collective to carry the day. Tatum, Brown and the Celtics prevailed behind a game-winning, buzzer-beating layup by Tatum who became the fifth player in the last 30 postseasons to accomplish such a feat in a series opener. Tatum joined the likes of Joe Johnson (2017), LeBron James (2013), Stephon Marbury (2003) and MJ (1997).
Kyrie’s tumultuous time with the franchise was short-lived, but the moments — good and bad — are etched in Boston fans’ memories forever. There was a mix of deception, miscommunication, and favoritism that distanced Kyrie from the franchise that he originally longed to be a part of after forcing his way out of Cleveland in 2017.
The team that featured Kyrie, Tatum, Brown, and Gordon Hayward fell extremely short of their expectations. That team only lasted for two seasons before Kyrie eventually left in free agency and signed to the Brooklyn Nets. He did so after telling the Celtics organization and fan base he planned on re-signing at the beginning of his last season there. This, among many other issues, caused turmoil within the organization, and a bitterness lingered. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum clearly weren’t cool with Kyrie at that point.
But according to Jaylen Brown, he has not only forgiven Kyrie and patched things up between them, but they’ve become close friends moving forward.
“Off the court, me and Kyrie might have started off with a lot of bumps in the road,” Brown told NBA Sports correspondent Abby Chin last week. “But as of lately, Kyrie is somebody that I’ve connected with. Somebody that I call a friend, a brother. Somebody that calls me to pick my brain at this point.
Brown continued, “It wasn’t like that when we played together. We bumped heads a lot. But it’s funny now in hindsight. Kyrie, he talks to me, hits me up all the time, and our relationship has grown a lot since then.”
Tatum has also mended his relationship with Kyrie. Kyrie also admitted his mistakes to Tatum and expressed regrets about his failure to morph into the veteran superstar leader that the Celtics organization had hoped he would be for the young C’s stars. Many fans and spectators also felt that Kyrie was impeding the young duo’s development as they advanced to the conference finals without him. The way fans and the organization saw it, Kyrie’s offensive prowess and ball-heavy style were taking touches away from Tatum and Brown.
Boston fans have taken a disliking to Kyrie ever since his departure, and whenever he’s in TD Garden, he receives a stadium full of boos and chants against him.
But recently Kyrie has asked fans to just move on. In an interview leading up to this highly anticipated series Kyrie said “I hope we could move past my Boston era and reflect on some of the highlights I left at TD Garden that they can replay. Move forward. Just a new paradigm, baby,”
Kyrie is ready to let bygones be bygones, but for Boston it’s not that simple. They were robbed of a vision, something they’d hope would spark another Boston dynasty and have them competing for titles every year like their franchise ancestors. Three, maybe four All-Stars sharing the floor together, developing and growing in unison. Fans hoped for Kyrie to take the reins of the franchise and lead the Celtics to titles, and then pass the torch to Tatum and Brown, who would carry the team into the new generation.
That vision was short-lived, and when Kyrie famously exclaimed, “I don’t owe anybody sh*t,” he sealed his fate with the Celtics fanbase, breaking their hearts and trusts all in one sentence, becoming public enemy No. 1.
Fans Still Salty
That sentiment was echoed throughout Game 1 as Kyrie was going back and forth with the crowd. While he was receiving boos, chants, and being heckled, he was countering those antics with his own words. He was shouting obscenities at fans as well, while constantly throwing the middle finger up at fans, and mocking them midgame.
As for the middle finger and antics, Kyrie said postgame, “When people start yelling pu**y, bi**h, and f**k you and all this stuff, there’s only so much you can take as a competitor. We’re the ones expected to be docile and take a humble approach. Naw, f**k that, it’s the playoffs.”
While Kyrie will see hefty fines for his behavior during the game, he definitely had the play to back up the attitude. The shifty guard torched the Celtics for 39 points, on 12-for-20 shooting, only narrowly losing the game
Brooklyn and Boston was never really a serious rivalry, though they share the same division. But if we’re getting a series full of games like Game 1 along with Kyrie versus Boston antics, this will become something very chaotic and entertaining.
Hopefully, Boston will follow in Brown and Tatum’s footsteps in forgiving and loving Kyrie once again. But after the display of “affection” that Kyrie put on for the Boston crowd, that isn’t happening anytime soon.