I'm a firm believer that when Kevin Durant talks anything basketball related, it's in your best interest to be quiet and listen to what he says. Every time I've ever heard him on a podcast or even in media sessions like this I always find him to be super honest and pretty insightful. He's a great listen. If anyone knows what it's like to return to a former city and not exactly be loved, Durant is certainly on this list. For my money it's a pretty self aware take from KD and there's a lot of truth to what he's saying.
I'm just not so sure it truly explains the Kyrie/Boston situation. Here's the thing, many of the same people that boo Kyrie and give him hell at the Garden are the same people that were cheering for him while he was a Celtic. I am no exception in that. While I was certainly an Isaiah guy over a Kyrie guy (and was ultimately proven right), I cheered for him when he wore a Celtics jersey. Now in 2022, I can't say I am doing the same. Fans are irrational, we are hypocrites and if you rock with us then we rock with you. When you don't, we don't. I can only remember a few instances in recent memory when a former player has come back and still been loved despite wearing a different jersey. It's like KG/Pierce and Isaiah. That's it. Maybe some Kelly Olynyk love here and there because how could we forget Game 7.
But when it comes to Kyrie, I'm not so sure this is all rooted in love. I think the national narrative when it comes to this situation often misses the point. There is not one singular act that has created this ordeal. It's a collection of everything that happened during the Kyrie era. Just to recap quickly,
- missing Game 7 to get a nose job
- immediately belittling the young guys who had success without him the next season
- promising to re-sign and then bolting
- reassuring that there was no need to panic during some underachievement because "they had him" for the playoffs
- acting like the victim and blaming everyone else once he got caught in 4K plotting with KD to join forces
- clearly mailing in a playoff series against MIL when he knew he was out the door
- sage-ing the Garden before a game
- acting like he was above the beef and didn't do anything to cause this, and Celts fans just had to get over it and stop acting like a scorned ex-girlfriend
- stepping on the logo as a very clear "fuck you" to the franchise, city, and fans
- flipping people off and telling them to suck his dick
If Kyrie had done none of those things and just left in free agency, I'm not sure there is this same reaction. Do people give a shit that Gordon Hayward decided to leave in free agency? Was there this level of hate for Al Horford every time he stepped foot in the Garden when he left to chase the bag? How about Mook or Terry? Shit, Rozier went guns blazing when he left that summer and nobody cares. So while there's definitely some truth to what KD said, not every situation is the same.
Are fans maybe a little irrational when it comes to Kyrie? Most assuredly. There is no place for logic and reason when it comes to sports fandom. But let's not pretend like both sides aren't continuing to poke each other. I think that's the difference here. Celts fans will own that they contribute to this drama. You ask Kyrie about it and he'd rather say "let's keep this to basketball" and avoid taking the responsibility for his actions despite his inability to "keep things to basketball". He wants to be a villain without owning what comes with being a villain. I said it the other day, if you do asshole shit, people will treat you like an asshole. If fans tell Kyrie "fuck you", he's going to say "fuck you" back. There's nothing wrong with that, just own it. The more he does and the less he owns it, that's what truly fuels the fire.
In some cases, I bet time heals all wounds. Eventually, I imagine KD will head back to OKC and people will be over the fact that he left to go join a super team. His exit also wasn't anywhere close to what Kyrie and Celts fans experienced together. Cavs fans got over LeBron leaving eventually. What makes the Kyrie situation unique is I can't see this ever stopping. Not with how it went while he was in Boston, how it ended, and what's happened since he left. So while KD thinks most of this is based in love, I feel like the Kyrie drama is based in pure, good old fashion hate. Some might say the NBA needs more of that.