Kyrie Irving was the subject of incredible vitriol yesterday, as Celtic fans were constantly heckling him during the Nets vs. Celtics game last night. Irving, who made a controversial exit from Boston in 2019, is considered the biggest villain for the franchise in the NBA today. But Irving didn't take the hate lying down, responding numerous times, and saying he would continue to do so.
But Shaquille O'Neal thinks he shouldn't be doing that. Shaquille O'Neal spoke about Kyrie Irving's post-game comments on Inside The NBA, noting that Irving should try to get revenge on the fans by performing well against the Celtics and helping the Nets eliminate them in the first round. He added that complaining about the abuse like Kyrie did would only make fans turn up the intensity of their antics (0:47 onwards).
“It’s part of the game… The best thing you can do is stay a consummate professional, and send they a** home at the end of the series. That’s the best thing you can do. I had a conversation with Bill Russell, and he told me some things I never knew and they had to go through. If you persevere and become one of the greatest big men of all time, that’s the type of action I want. That’s the type of professional I want to be. Muhammad Ali, Kareem, Jackie Robinson, all the people who made it, paved the way for us to be able to be here, be professional. They had to hear some real stuff. I react by whoever is on the court, bustin their a** and sending them home. That’s how you react, you don’t cry and whine about it. Boston, Philly, New York, they don’t care about that press conference. Game 2, they gon’ be talking more (sh*t). They gon’ be doing more things and more antics. They don’t care about that in Boston. Just play and win the game. It’s just basketball, I don’t want to hear all that.”
In fairness, Kyrie Irving didn't let the heckling affect his performance, as he scored 39 points, and the Nets came incredibly close to winning the game. But perhaps Shaq believes that he shouldn't have said anything during the press conference, and just focused on getting a win in Game 2. Charles Barkley also agreed with Shaq and noted that it is a small minority of fans that misbehave during games.
Kevin Durant also spoke after the game about what Kyrie Irving had to face, noting that he wasn't surprised by the way Celtic fans were treating Kyrie and dismissed it as nothing more than a part of basketball. Regardless of which side of the coin fans fall on, there is no denying that Irving will be in for a rough time every time he and the Nets go to the TD Garden to play the Celtics during this series.