After making headlines a week ago for saying "basketball is just not the most important thing to me right now" — the Israel-Hamas fighting was taking precedence — Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving is commanding attention again after saying Tuesday he hopes there won't be any "racism" from Boston fans as his squad battles the Celtics on Friday.
The Nets lead the NBA playoff series 2-0, with Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Sunday in Boston.
What did Irving say?
"It's not my first time being an opponent in Boston," Irving — who played for the Celtics in 2017 and 2018 — told reporters. "I'm just looking forward to competing with my teammates, and you know, hopefully we can just keep it strictly basketball. You know, there's no belligerence or any racism going on, subtle racism, and people yelling [expletive beeped out] from the crowd."
He added, "But even if it is, it's part of the nature of the game, and [we're] just gonna focus on what we can control."
A reporter asked Irving if he had experienced any of his aforementioned issues in Boston before.
Irving replied, "I'm not the only one that could attest to this, but it's just, you know." Irving then paused and laughed before saying, "It is what it is."
🔊”Hopefully we can just keep it strictly basketball.” Kyrie Irving stoked the fire ahead of his return to Boston o… https://t.co/5cgIxT4lj9— Boston Globe Sports (@Boston Globe Sports)1622038422.0
Amid the Israel-Hamas fighting earlier this month, a somber Irving told reporters near the end of the season, "I'm not gonna to lie to you guys, a lot of stuff is going on in this world, and basketball is just not the most important thing to me right now. There's a lot of stuff going on overseas. All my people are still in bondage across the world, and there's a lot of dehumanization going on."
He added, "I apologize if I'm not gonna be focused on y'all's questions ... It's just too much going on in the world for me to just be talking about basketball. I gotta focus on this s**t 24/7 most of the time, but it's just too much going on in this world not to address ... It's sad to see this s**t going on. And it's not just in Palestine, it's not just in Israel. It's all over the world, man, and I feel it. I'm very compassionate toward all races, all cultures, and to see a lot of different people being discriminated ... against based on their religion, color of their skin, what they believe in. It's just sad."
Content warning: Language:
Kyrie Irving speaks out against the injustice in Palestine youtu.be
Oh, and as for the Celtics, the franchise is fresh off a bit of a controversy of its own when the team tweeted a photo of star player Kemba Walker wearing a jacket emblazoned with the famous "Don't Tread on Me" design from the Gadsden Flag.
Some on the left have claimed the historical symbol has taken on racist and white supremacist meanings, but Walker said after the dustup that he had no idea the image or motto meant anything in particular, saying "the colors looked good, it went with my sneakers, that's all."