Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving said he's hopeful his team will "keep it strictly basketball" during their upcoming playoff games against the Boston Celtics, his former team, at TD Garden, implying the possibility of being the target of racism by Boston fans.
"I am just looking forward to competing with my teammates and hopefully, we can just keep it strictly basketball; there's no belligerence or racism going on -- subtle racism," Irving said ahead of Game 3 via ESPN. "People yelling s--- from the crowd, but even if it is, it's part of the nature of the game and we're just going to focus on what we can control."
Irving spent two seasons in Boston before joining the Nets in 2019. When asked if he ever had racist comments directed toward him, the All-Star guard responded that he "was not the only one that can attest to this" and shrugged his hands.
Black athletes have shared experiences of being the target of racism during games in Boston for decades. Bill Russell, who won 11 NBA championships while spending his entire Basketball Hall of Fame career with the Celtics, once referred to the city as "a flea market of racism," according to ESPN.
In 2017, Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones accused Boston Red Sox fans of calling him the N-word several times while playing at Fenway Park.
"It is what it is," Irving added.
Another person out of view of the camera during Irving's videoconference added, "The whole world knows it," and Irving echoed, "The whole world knows it."
Irving has appeared in two games at TD Garden since joining the Nets in 2019, once this preseason and in a December 25, 2020, regular-season matchup.
However, COVID-19 restrictions prevented the Celtics from hosting fans during the two previous matchups, so Game 3 will be Irving's first game playing in front of the Boston fans since his departure.
The Celtics will host fans at 25% of their 19,580 capacity for Game 3 on Friday (May 28) and will be "near full capacity" for Game 4 on Sunday (May 30).
Irving recorded 15 points, six rebounds, and six assists during the Nets' 130-108 win against the Celtics during Game 2 in Brooklyn Tuesday (May 25) night, taking a 2-0 lead in the series.
Source: Clippers Really Did 'Tank' Final Two Games to Avoid Playing Lakers
Rob Parker: Giving Steph Curry a Supermax Deal Would Be Worst Contract Ever
Ric Bucher: Not Suspending Anthony Davis For Groin Kick Would Be Unfair
Anthony Davis Should've Been Ejected From Game 2 For Groin Kick to Defender
Doug Gottlieb Calls Out WNBA Player For 'Hypocritical' Blast at Coach
Chris Broussard: Aaron Rodgers Planned All Year to Unleash this Drama
Julio Jones Has 2 Teams 'On His Radar' Amid Trade Rumors: Report
Clay Travis Calls Out Stephen A. Smith For Controversial Tim Tebow Comments