It’s not like Tuesday’s Celtics-Cavaliers game, which kicks off the NBA’s regular season, needed anything to increase the emotion of the event. But we can thank Kyrie Irving, anyway, for adding to the ill will he was already a lock to experience in Cleveland, in his first game after the Cavs acquiesced to his trade request.
That’s because Irving saw fit Wednesday to insult Cleveland sports fans for, of all things, their degree of interest in sports. He probably intended it as more of a compliment to his new home in Boston, but people in the city where he had played since becoming the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2011 would be forgiven for not seeing it that way.
According to the Charlotte Observer, Irving was speaking to reporters Wednesday about his early impressions of being a Celtic when he said, “Boston, I’m driving in and [thinking], ‘I’m really playing in a real, live sports city?’ ”
Alrighty, then. Of course, there’s no doubt that Boston loves its sports, and has done so long before the massive recent success of its professional teams, most notably the Patriots and Red Sox.
But Clevelanders are somehow deficient in that regard? The same people who cheer for the Browns, year after losing year, and who hadn’t had a champion in over a half-century until Irving helped the Cavs win it all in 2016?
Speaking of which, even after asking Cavs management this summer to send him away, Irving likely had some residual goodwill in Cleveland — before Wednesday. After all, he had hit the biggest shot in franchise history to help seal the title, while teaming up with LeBron James to take the Cavs to three straight Finals.
Even his trade request might have been seen by some as fairly understandable, given his reported desire to get out from under James’s considerable shadow and to make his own move before the latter possibly opted out of his contract in 2018.
But saying that Cleveland is something less than “a real, live sports city”? There may be no coming back from that, but there will be some going into the Cavs’ arena as Public Enemy No. 1.
And that wasn’t the only unfavorable comparison Irving had to make from Cleveland to Boston. “It’s exciting to be back on the East Coast,” said Irving, a New Jersey native. “It’s fast-paced. 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.”
It seems likely that Irving will also see a vast difference in how he is treated by fans at Quicken Loans Arena. He’ll probably hear some new phrases, too.
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