BOSTON — Kyrie Irving delivered Friday night, both on and off the court.
Irving’s game-high 30 points helped the Boston Celtics earn a 114-112 win over the Indiana Pacers at TD Garden. The star point guard’s game-winning basket with 0.5 seconds remaining vaulted Boston into fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings as the regular season winds down.
More important, however, were Irving’s remarks after the game that had nothing to do with Boston’s thrilling victory.
Hours before tip-off, the Celtics issued a statement regarding a fan who was ejected from Boston’s late-January clash against the Golden State Warriors after verbally abusing DeMarcus Cousins. It was reported that a racial slur was directed at Cousins, but the Celtics said they were unable to confirm that. The fan has been issued a two-year ban from Celtics games and is subject to lifetime probation.
While Irving noted he’s never been the target of a racial slur in Boston — both as a Celtic and opposing player — he certainly can sympathize with what Cousins had to go through.
“Really what matters is just treating people with respect,” Irving said. “That’s really what it comes down to. In sports, there really gets a gray area where sometimes fans can say really hurtful things. They treat us — and I say some fans, not all fans. I’m just saying sometimes instances come where it goes way beyond basketball, and that’s a personal thing. It matters to all of us because we have kids, we have families that we represent. We represent very different backgrounds. I think coming to Boston has been a very eye-opening experience for me. Just getting to experience and know Boston. I haven’t really heard too much about stuff like that. But hearing about it, it’s a little saddening. Just to happen not just in Boston, but just as an NBA player. Hearing another NBA player go through something like that is just terrible, or any athlete hearing racial slurs.”
Irving also understands that the issue at hand extends well beyond the basketball court.
“Racism still exists in our society. It happens every day,” Irving said. “I don’t want to limit it to just us athletes. A lot of people go through a lot of racial tension. It’s a terrible thing in our society. …At one point or another, things happen like that and I don’t want that to ever happen to anyone. Whether you’re walking down the street or playing in an NBA basketball game, in today’s society there’s no room for that. We can’t accept that.”