Kyrie admits this TD Garden moment ‘wasn't a great reflection' of himself

Kyrie admits this TD Garden moment ‘wasn’t a great reflection’ of himself originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Kyrie Irving knows what to expect each time he steps on the TD Garden parquet in the NBA Finals. The boos will be the loudest they’ve been since the star point guard left the Boston Celtics in 2019 and became arguably the city’s greatest sports villain.

Now with the Dallas Mavericks, Irving pledges to handle the hostile environment better than in years past.

The most glaring example of Irving giving in to the Garden crowd came in Game 1 of the 2022 first-round series between the C’s and Brooklyn Nets. The eight-time All-Star flashed the middle finger to fans twice during the matchup.

On Monday, Irving expressed remorse for that incident.

“Last time in Boston, I don’t think that was the best — not this regular season but when we played in the playoffs and everyone saw me flip off the birds 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,” Irving told reporters. “It wasn’t a great reflection on my end toward 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 to have with the fans.”

Irving knows the only way to silence the Garden crowd is to let his play do the talking.

“I almost think about Gladiator just winning the crowd over,” he added. “It’s good to hear the TD Garden silent when you’re playing well. They still respect great basketball. So regardless of the attention that’s being paid to what it’s going to be like on my end, I have a group to lead that’s going to be looking to me for a voice of peace and to be able to control what I can control and also help them through it.

“So I’ll take the brunt of it, of all the yells and stuff like that and all the remarks, but I’ve been able to grow since then and acknowledge that I just can handle things better, especially when I want to put the majority of my energy toward playing well. I can’t just be getting into it with fans like that, even though it may be fun at times. But it’s a waste of energy. It’s a waste of my time, and it’s also a waste of my talent trying to answer questions from the past that people have.”

The 2024 NBA Finals will mark Irving’s third playoff series against Boston since leaving the C’s. If Irving can keep his emotions in check in this series, it’ll be a first. Prior to that 2022 middle finger incident, he infamously stomped on the Celtics’ logo at midcourt during the 2021 Celtics-Nets playoff series. Another dramatic Kyrie-related moment at TD Garden feels inevitable.

The fun begins Thursday in Boston for Game 1 with tip-off scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET. Coverage starts on NBC Sports Boston with Celtics Pregame Live at 7 p.m.

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