Following the Boston Celtics’ Game 4 loss at TD Garden, a fan was arrested for throwing a water bottle at Kyrie Irving as the Brooklyn Nets were leaving the parquet floor. Moments before, Irving was seen stepping on the center court logo and smearing it with his sneaker before walking off the court he called home for two seasons, but it’s unclear if the incidents are related.
@ESPNNBA kyrie showing his true colors. pic.twitter.com/MIF07RHjcz— yornoc (@yornoc74) May 31, 2021
As Kyrie Irving was leaving the floor at TD Garden a fan threw a water bottle at him pic.twitter.com/r6GeIvtt3I— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 31, 2021
Kyrie, u are a great player! Why the classes act?— Cedric Maxwell (@cedricmaxwell81) May 31, 2021
(#Kyrie stomps on iconic #Celtics leprechaun.) pic.twitter.com/iyOKgP9EGi
After the game, the Boston Police Department arrested the fan and TD Garden released the following statement:
“A guest was arrested by Boston Police at the end of tonight’s Boston Celtics game for throwing an object. We will support and provide assistance to Boston Police as this incident is under review.
We have zero tolerance for violations of our guest code of conduct, and the guest is subject to a lifetime ban from TD Garden.
The NBA’s return to full capacity during the playoffs has recently been marred by similar incidents in Philadelphia when a fan threw popcorn at Washington’s Russell Westbrook as he left the floor with an injury and in New York where a fan spit on Atlanta’s Trae Young.
Prior to Game 3, Irving made public comments about the “subtle racism” and “belligerence” he felt during his two-year stint with the Celtics and he was clearly targeted by the fans on Friday and Sunday night during his first two games back in Boston with a home crowd in the stands.
Late in the fourth quarter of Game 4, Marcus Smart and Kevin Durant received double technical fouls for jawing at each other a little too long after a loose ball scrum. It was a heated exchange, but nothing out of the ordinary in a playoff game. But after the buzzer, the two were united in their opinion of the off court incident.
“Fans gotta grow up at some point. I know that being in the house for a year and a half with the pandemic got a lot of people on edge, got a lot of people stressed out,” Durant said. “But when you come to these games, you gotta realize these men are human, ya know? We not animals. We not in a circus. You coming to the game is not all about you as a fan. Have some respect for the game, have some respect for these human beings, and have some respect for yourself. Your mother wouldn’t be proud of you throwing water bottles at basketball players or spitting on players or tossing popcorn, so grow the **** up and enjoy the game. It’s bigger than you.”
It was the first time in over two years that The Garden had a near capacity crowd for a Celtics playoff game. On Friday night for Game 3, the Celtics hosted 25% capacity in the stands, but with state restrictions lifted over the weekend, a raucous 17,000 were packed to the rafters. For many of the players, it was a welcome sight to have the fans back, but even they were quick to draw a line between rooting for the team and attacking opposing players.
“From my understanding, the culprit was definitely taken care of quickly. We’re glad that got taken care of,” Marcus Smart said. “Unfortunately, one bad seed doesn’t mean the whole food is poisoned. Our fans are great. We just had a knucklehead doing something knuckleheadish.”
x17,000 #BleedGreen pic.twitter.com/SQa2f218kq— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 29, 2021
For Irving, the aggression possible speaks to something bigger.
Kyrie Irving's initial response about the water bottle incident: pic.twitter.com/kMbW46qAhJ— Celtics on CLNS (@CelticsCLNS) May 31, 2021
“It’s unfortunate that sports have come to a lot of this kind of crossroads where you’re seeing a lot of old ways come up. It’s been that way in history in terms entertainment, performers, and sports for a long period of time with just underlying racism and treating people like they’re in a human zoo,” Irving said.
Throwing stuff at people and saying things, there’s a certain point where it gets to be too much, so I called it out. I just wanted to keep it strictly basketball and you just see that people feel very entitled out here. They pay for their tickets. Great. I’m grateful that they’re coming in to watch a great performance, but it’s just — we’re not at the theater. We’re not throwing tomatoes and other random stuff at the people that are performing. It’s too much. It’s a reflection on us as a whole when you have fans acting like that, so hopefully, people learn their lessons from being banned for however many years of being arrested, but there’s always going to be an occasion.”
Irving has served as a lightning rod for this issue, but his playing history with the Celtics can often make it difficult to separate how fans feel about Kyrie and what they feel about racism and social justice in this country. However, as Jaylen Brown urged earlier in the week, it’s certainly an uncomfortable conversation that we should have.