Kyrie Irving’s Petty Rant Cost Him $25,000, but He Wasn’t Wrong About Fickle Cleveland Fans

The Brooklyn Nets are the NBA’s public profanity champions, if nothing else. The NBA on Jan. 20 fined Kyrie Irving for comments directed at a fan during an MLK Day loss at Cleveland. Irving is the second Brooklyn player fined for inappropriate language. Kevin Durant has two citations for inappropriate language in 2021–22.

Of course, $25,000 is a pittance compared with the more than $9.5 million already surrendered by the star point guard this season for games missed while not complying with coronavirus (COVID-19) protocols. Irving loses more than $380,000 in salary for each home game. The Nets have played 23 home games this season. Irving also paid fines for two home preseason games.

But the Nets are the only team fined for language this season. It begs the question: What the %$&# is going on in Brooklyn?

Kyrie Irving has a unique relationship with the world

Since the Cleveland Cavaliers took Kyrie Irving first overall in the 2011 NBA Draft, his worldview often obscures the stellar on-court accomplishments.

The soon-to-be 30-year-old won a championship in Cleveland in 2016, is a three-time All-NBA selection, a seven-time All-Star, and a Rookie of the Year winner.

But Irving is also notorious for his personal views, espousing flat-earth beliefs in 2018 for which he later apologized, according to The Associated Press.

Last season, he missed games while reacting to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Brooklyn Nets deactivated Irving for more than two months because his vaccination status prevented him from playing games in New York City.

Locker-room drama marked his time with the Boston Celtics. Then came the infamous declaration he was re-signing with the team until he didn’t.

He asked out of Cleveland after three straight NBA Finals appearances because, according to Dave DeNatale of WKYC in Cleveland, he no longer wanted to be Robin to LeBron James’ Batman.

A Cleveland fan heckled Kyrie Irving and got an earful

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving barked at a fan during a loss at Cleveland on MLK Day. The NBA didn't like the language and docked the star $25,000.
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving barked at a fan during a loss at Cleveland on MLK Day. The NBA didn’t like the language and docked the star $25,000. | Jason Miller/Getty Images

As the Brooklyn Nets were losing to the Cavaliers on Jan. 17, a courtside fan heckled Kyrie Irving. According to a tweet from Bleacher Report, he listened to some of the banter before responding.

“Got y’all a championship, and mother***ers still ungrateful,” Irving said in an Instagram video that went viral.

The NBA fined Irving $25,000 for the exchange. The NBA docked Durant the same amount in December for cursing at a courtside fan in Atlanta. Durant also paid $15,000 for using profanity during media availability.

Was it petty? Of course. But it was also on-brand for Irving, notoriously defensive with fans and media.

But fans don’t get a pass, either. A ticket to enter a sporting event is not the same as a license to behave like a jerk.

There’s another reason Irving’s championship ring may not hold the same status it once did in Cleveland.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are outside the post-championship window

While writing for ESPN in 2002, columnist Bill Simmons penned a column entitled “Rules for being a true fan.”

We direct your attention to rule No. 12 on that list:

“After your team wins a championship, they immediately get a five-year grace period. You can’t complain about anything that happens with your team (trades, draft picks, salary-cap cuts, coaching moves) for five years. There are no exceptions.”

Bill Simmons

Alas, the grace period for the Cavaliers’ 2016 title expired last year. Irving’s role in winning that championship is outside the warranty period; thus, all complaints about him from Cleveland fans are valid.

All kidding aside, the oft-injured star asked for a trade while the Cavaliers were in a championship-contention window. Oddly enough, fans take that sort of thing personally.

In 11 NBA seasons, Irving utterly alienated two fanbases, first in Cleveland and then in Boston. Given that he’s played in less than half of the games played by the Brooklyn Nets since signing with them in 2019 (79 of 188 in the regular season), it’s not out of the realm of possibility Kyrie Irving could get the hat trick.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference. Contract information courtesy of Spotrac.

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