Kyrie Irving Shares Regret and What He Takes from Playing in Boston: 'Learned How to Let Go'

Mar 1, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) shoots against Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) in the second quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) shoots against Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) in the second quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports / David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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Kyrie Irving's final season in Boston was as exhausting as it was underwhelming. Welcoming back the eight-time All-Star and Gordon Hayward to a team that came one win from the NBA Finals without them turned into a burden, not a blessing.

As Hayward put it in an appearance on Podcast P with Paul George, "We all had too many agendas, and the agenda to win the whole thing was not the main one."

Instead, there was a clash between players on different timelines that took place while Irving plotted his exit.

"Being on such a talented team, it's not just talent that's going to take you over the top," said Jayson Tatum of what he learned from that Celtics season. "You have to have guys that are willing to sacrifice, guys that are willing to do the other things in order for the team to have a chance, and it wasn't a Kyrie thing; it was all of us. We all took part in why that season wasn't a success. We all learned from it — some of us stayed here, other guys left and have done great things since that season. I just look at that as a learning experience for my second year."

Irving, who dealt with a family tragedy that season, also wishes he received more grace as he coped with the loss of a loved one.

When asked how he's grown from a season that started with promise, including his pledge to re-sign with Boston, ended on such a sour note, with the Celtics bounced from the playoffs in a 4-1 second-round defeat against the Bucks, Irving shared the following while speaking with reporters in Dallas as he prepares for his TD Garden return for the NBA Finals.

"Learning how to move on and let go of the past," said the 32-year-old guard. "It can cripple you if you allow it to...When I look back on it, I just see it as a time where I learned how to let go of things and learned how to talk through my emotions."

That 2018-19 campaign went from potentially ushering in the latest championship chapter of Celtics basketball to threatening Boston's ability to return to the NBA's summit.

Many Celtics fans still hold Irving primarily responsible for that. While it seems healthier to let those feelings go, and perhaps seeing Boston best their archnemesis to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy would lead to that release, the Mavericks' star guard knows he's walking into a hostile environment on Thursday.

"We call it animosity, we call it hate, we call it, 'It's going to be hell in Boston,'" stated Irving. "I mean, there are real live circumstances going on in the world that are bigger than the basketball, kind of the competitive side of things and answering those questions."

Irving is in a much different place than when he was flipping off fans in Boston and stomping on the Lucky the Leprechaun logo at halfcourt during the playoffs in 2021. He has a wife and a kid now, which has helped give him more perspective.

He's also had time to learn from his mistakes and figure out how to navigate in a manner more aligned with who he wants to be.

"But I will say last time in Boston, I don't think that was the best -- not this regular season, but when we played in the playoffs, and everyone saw me flip off the birds and kind of lose my s--- a little bit -- that wasn't a great reflection of who I am and how I like to compete on a high level. It wasn't a great reflection on my end towards the next generation on what it means to control your emotions in that type of environment, no matter what people are yelling at you.

"I'm built for these moments, to be able to handle circumstances like that, and I've been able to grow since then. So, of course, it's going to be a hectic environment, but I'm looking forward to it, and I see it as a healthy relationship that I have with the fans. I almost think about 'Gladiator,' just winning the crowd over. It is good to hear the TD Garden silent when you're playing well. They still respect great basketball."

Further Reading

Celtics' All-Defensive Guards Relishing Chance to Defend Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic

Jayson Tatum Grateful for Second Chance in NBA Finals

Kristaps Porzingis Making Encouraging Progress Toward NBA Finals Return

NBA Finals Betting Lines: Celtics Significant Favorites Over Mavs

Joe Mazzulla Eviscerates Contrived Narrative about Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown

Celtics-Mavericks NBA Finals Has Kyrie Irving Between Boston and Banner 18

Al Horford Returns to NBA Finals Aiming to Add to a Legacy Already Cemented

Jaylen Brown's Evolution Propels Him to Eastern Conference Finals MVP

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Bobby Krivitsky


Bobby Krivitsky's experiences include covering the NBA as a credentialed reporter for Basketball Insiders. He's also a national sports talk host for SportsMap Radio, a network airing on 96 radio stations throughout the country. Additionally, he was a major-market host, update anchor, and producer for IMG Audio, and he worked for Bleacher Report as an NFL and NBA columnist.