Kyrie Irving Gave Most Revealing Quote Yet on How Celtics Tenure Went Wrong

The All-Star guard gave perhaps his most insightful answer yet on why his time in Boston went so sideways.
Jun 14, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) warms up before game four of the 2024 NBA Finals
Jun 14, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) warms up before game four of the 2024 NBA Finals / Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

With the Dallas Mavericks fending off elimination in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday night, Kyrie Irving is once again headed back to Boston to face his past. The All-Star guard has spent much of the Finals reflecting on his Celtics tenure and how he's changed since everything went sideways in the season leading up to his signing with the Brooklyn Nets.

On Sunday, Irving gave the most revealing quote yet on why his time in Boston didn't work out.

Speaking to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, Irving admitted he didn't know how to "manage those personalities" in the Celtics' locker room in order to help the team become great.

"Back then I didn't know how to manage those personalities. I went into every day feeling like I have to be better than my teammates," Irving said. "We were very, very competitive, and the one thing that I always instilled them when I first came there was: stop being afraid to challenge the other guys. That was something that we shared as younger players -- we wanted to establish ourselves as a great team, so that's how we got started."

One can see how that could develop into an environment not particularly conducive to winning. Iron sharpens iron and a desire to improve by consistently outperforming teammates in practice are hallmarks of great basketball teams. But the line is thin between that and creating division by, as Irving describes, feeling like you have to be better than your teammates. The purpose of a basketball player is to beat the opposing team, not prove they are the best player on the court regardless of jersey color.

Irving's last Celtics team had a pretty significant problem with that. The roster featured a few players in contract years trying to prove they're worth a big payday and up-and-coming stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown— and then there was Kyrie, mercurial at the best of times, undoubtedly the most skilled player on the floor, but also a player whose game shines the brightest spotlight on him and him alone.

It would seem those experiences prepared Irving for his role now as the veteran leader of a title contender. The world will find out if they can also drive him to perform well at TD Garden for the first time in years on Monday night for Game 5.


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Liam McKeone

LIAM MCKEONE

Liam McKeone is a senior writer for the Breaking and Trending News team at Sports Illustrated. He has been in the industry as a content creator since 2017, and prior to joining SI in May 2024, McKeone worked for NBC Sports Boston and The Big Lead. In addition to his work as a writer, he has hosted the Press Pass Podcast covering sports media and The Big Stream covering pop culture. A graduate of Fordham University, he is always up for a good debate and enjoys loudly arguing about sports, rap music, books and video games. McKeone has been a member of the National Sports Media Association since 2020.