Five days from now, Kyrie Irving and his new team, the Boston Celtics, will be gearing up for his old team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, in the season-opening game of 2017-18 (8 ET, TNT). There will be no lack of storylines for that game and build-up as well, yet to Irving, it’s just another date on the calendar. Irving spoke with The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears about that first game back in Cleveland, whether his jersey should be retired there and more:
While Irving is expecting a wild return to Cleveland during the first NBA regular-season game of the season Tuesday, he doesn’t appear to be anxious.
“No. Why would it be? It’s just hoops,” Irving said before Wednesday’s shootaround in preparation for a preseason game against the Charlotte Hornets. “It’s just hooping. I understand the magnitude … But I know what it is going to entail in terms of marketing, whatever the case may be, to garner up this energy to make people feel a certain type of way. I get all that. It’s part of the game. It’s been a part of the game for a while. But, it’s just two hoops and a basketball.
“It’s all love no matter what. I have heard boos at times to hearing cheers in the parade. I’ve been in the championship parade as well as being down 30 in ‘Q Arena.’ So, I’ve heard it all. It’s just good to be there and hoop against a great team like the Cavs.”
Irving said he respects the body of work he left in Cleveland.
“You can always look back, and it’s a standstill in time where you look back at what happened. The amount of emotion and sacrifice it took to get something that special in Cleveland, and the only [NBA] championship, at that … The way we did it was 1-of-1. We are 1-of-1 in NBA history, so that is pretty awesome,” Irving said.
The Cavaliers have seven retired jerseys hanging in the rafters of Quicken Loans Area: Austin Carr, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Nate Thurmond, Bobby “Bingo” Smith, Larry Nance, Brad Daugherty and Mark Price. James’ No. 23 figures to be retired soon after he retires. With Irving’s body of work, should the Cavaliers retire his No. 2 jersey in time?
“I don’t know. I don’t know if it will ever happen,” Irving said. “I’m appreciative of [my career in Cleveland]. The multiple legacies I want to live in my life, Cleveland is definitely part of one. Whether it’s appreciated or not, it doesn’t matter to me. I think the effect, the actual time I spent there, is what matters most and actually trying to be remembered for what happened.”
The Celtics have won an NBA-best 17 championships and this upcoming season marks the 10-year anniversary of the last title in 2008. Irving acknowledged that he definitely noticed all the old championship banners hanging inside the Celtics’ practice facility gym. He also noticed an 18th banner with no words on it and a spotlight shining on it.
With a talented roster on his new team, Irving said, the “ultimate mission” is to be playing in June in the 2018 NBA Finals. Irving and the Celtics would likely have to eliminate the Cavaliers in the playoffs to do that.
“The most important one is the empty one that is up there,” Irving said. “There is a light shining on it. I asked Brad [Stevens] one day if he put it up there purposely for a reason. And he said it had been there for a while since the 2008 [NBA championship] banner. I know where the goal is. I know where the goal lies and the importance it. And now we have to just finish the steps on how to accomplish that.”