Author Details What Made Nets Kyrie Irving Leave Celtics


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Kyrie Irving of the Nets dribbles the ball against the Celtics during the first half of Game Four of the Eastern Conference first round series

This year will mark 7-time NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving’s third season with the Brooklyn Nets. Irving’s decision to join the franchise came as surprise to many. Especially because at the beginning of the 2018-19 season he all but guaranteed that he would be re-signing with the Boston Celtics during the free agency period.

Ultimately, Irving ended up in Brooklyn alongside one of his best friends in Kevin Durant. However, according to Matt Sullivan, author of the book Can’t Knock the Hustle, the star point guard had long flirted with the idea of leaving the Celtics. 

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Celtics Fans’ Racism Played Role in Kyrie’s Departure

In a recent interview with Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson’ of Bally Sports Network Sullivan says that Irving began questioning if he wanted to stay in Boston long-term due to Celtics fans’ long-tenured history of racism.

“My reporting shows in the book that as early as the 2017-18 season, he was thinking about the ‘racist past’ of Boston fans and whether that was the type of city that he wanted to represent,” Sullivan said.

“You fast forward to this present season, he’s kind of unprovoked, basically saying, “I hope there’s not any subtle racism in Boston…” and they’re throwing bottles at him [in Boston] and fans in Philly are dumping popcorn on Russ Westbrook.”

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Kyrie Has Been at the Forefront of Social Justice Issues

Kyrie for long has been one of the handful of NBA players at the forefront of social justice issues. Irving was noted as being against the NBA restart in the 2020 Disney Bubble as it was scheduled to take place right after the murder of George Floyd. Because of his stance on the restart, he earned himself a reputation as a disruptor, but Sullivan insists that is not the Nets guard’s intention.

“And so, I think that Kyrie has always been ahead of the curve or at least riding the wave of the culture of our politics and so I don’t think that he was telling guys not to go to the [NBA] Bubble, I think that he was questioning like, ‘Is that good of a look for black millionaire athletes that are going to make billions for Disney and Turner in this protective Disney World playland when we can be out here fighting the good fight in the streets or figuring out how to unify?’” Sullivan continued.

“And sometimes the thing with Kyrie is that it’s not as clear and sometimes his pacing, his timing is a little off and so I think the Bubble was already happening. The George Floyd and Breonna Taylor stuff was happening really fast in real-time, and he didn’t have any eyes. But of course, I think when the Bucks had the strike, people were like, ‘Well, this is what Kyrie was saying…’ So, I’m not sure if he will truly get the fair shake from the NBA media.”


Kyrie’s exit from the Celtics may have been even more unexpected than his arrival there from the Cavaliers in 2018. Whatever the true reason for his exit was, the opportunity to play with an athlete like Durant is an opportunity that is hard to pass up. That decision could be justified even further if they can deliver the Nets their first-ever NBA title. 

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