When the Celtics travel to Cleveland next Tuesday night to take on the Cavaliers in their first game of the 2017-18 NBA regular season, Kyrie Irving probably isn’t going to get a warm welcome from his former fans. In fact, he’s likely going to get booed relentlessly by those gathered at Quicken Loans Arena for the game. Because while Irving may have hit one of the biggest shots in Cavaliers’ history and helped the team earn its first NBA title in 2016, Irving has been nothing but a thorn in the team’s side over the last few months.
It all started when Irving essentially forced his way out of Cleveland over the summer by demanding a trade, despite still having a couple years left on his contract. Once he got that trade, he then explained that "happiness" was his motivating factor for wanting to leave, which didn’t sit well with many Cavaliers fans. And on Wednesday night, he twisted the knife a little more by taking some shots at the entire city of Cleveland and the culture surrounding it.
Prior to the Celtics’ preseason game against the Hornets, Irving said that he sees a "vast difference" between Cleveland and Boston as cities—and he, in no uncertain terms, gave Boston the nod as the better sports city and seemingly the better city overall.
"Boston, I’m driving in and [thinking], 'I’m really playing in a real, live sports city?'" he told reporters. "A lot of different cultures, food, and people. You get it all, especially in Boston. You would go to Cleveland, and it would be at nighttime and things would be going on, but you just see a vast difference."
Cavaliers fans reacted about how you would expect them to when they heard Irving’s comments.
Irving did, for what it’s worth, try and soften the blow by explaining his Cleveland vs. Boston comments further following the Celtics’ 108-100 win against Charlotte. And he gave Cleveland a little bit more credit the second time around.
"To come from another city like Cleveland, and understanding what the city represents and is embodied there, what we accomplished there, is pretty monumental to be a team that did what we did in historic fashion, and understanding the culture we continued to build there and the legacy that I left there," he said. "Understanding the fans and the connection I had there, and moving into Boston, there’s a lot of newness."
But his follow-up comments didn’t do much to endear him to Cavaliers fans, and we can pretty much guarantee he’s going to be walking into a hostile environment when he takes the court in Cleveland next week.