“He’s Going To End Up…Playing For Somebody, No Matter How Toxic He Is” | Dr. J Says Kyrie Irving Will Play Again, But Phil Knight Says Not For Nike

(Getty Images)

Brooklyn Nets All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving is in the midst of a suspension from the team for promoting an anti-Semitic film and refusing to apologize for several days. Many suspected his days with the Nets were done and now it’s official. Some wonder if he’ll ever play in the league again.

During an interview with CNBC, Nike co-founder Phil Knight said it’s unlikely the company and Nets star Kyrie Irving will resume their business relationship, despite Kyrie meeting with NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday to begin clearing a path for his return.

“I would doubt that we go back, but I don’t know for sure,” Knight said. 

Nike announced Friday that it was suspending its relationship with Irving and would not launch his new shoe line. Despite the whirlwind of grief Irving has brought upon himself, putting his entire career in limbo, Hall of Fame legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving says Kyrie will play again because he’s too talented for owners to pass on.

“The owners are greedy,” Dr. J said out at LAX this weekend. “He’s going to end up in the league playing for somebody, no matter how toxic he is.”

There is a lot of truth to what Dr. J said. People that are immensely talented, like Kyrie, are given numerous opportunities despite their toxicity. Make no mistake about it, Irving is toxic.

Since day one as a member of the Nets, Kyrie has some kind of issue that takes the focus away from the thing he is best at, playing basketball.

In 2019 during training camp in Santa Barbara the team’s performance staff, as it has always done, wanted the players to use wearables to track metrics. Irving balked. On the trip to China later that summer Irving refused to remove his hat for a team photo.

That season he played in only 20 games as he dealt with an injury and disagreed with the team on how to manage it. Depending on what reports you believe, he was instrumental in having coach Neil Atkinson fired that same season.

The following season he took an unexcused 10-day absence from the team. During that absence he was seen at a birthday party violating the league’s COVID-19 safety guidelines and on a Zoom session for Tahanie Aboushi, a former Democratic candidate for Manhattan district attorney.

Last season he refused to comply with the New York City COVID-19 vaccine mandate like the rest of his teammates and was ineligible for home games. His refusal brought media and public backlash upon his organization and his limited availability negatively impacted team chemistry, as he only played in 29 games.

But if you’re a general manager or an owner, how could you in good faith give Irving a multi-year maximum contract? His skills say he’s worth that. But his availability and baggage suggest otherwise.

Nike is drawing a line in the sand. The loss of that affiliation might be liberating to Kyrie, but it does nothing for his bag or his brand.

Kyrie stepped over the line,” Knight said. “It’s that simple. He made some statements that we just can’t abide by, and that’s when we ended the relationship.”

It’s no coincidence that the mood in and around the Nets facility and team has been lighter and happier since Irving was suspended last Thursday. The team’s played better too. There is such a thing as addition by subtraction.

“I always thought it was a privilege, an honor, and a blessing to be able to be an NBA player,” Dr. J said. “So, if he could respect that a little bit more, I’d be happy with him sharing my name.”

Irving originally had a series of steps he was told he had to complete to the Nets’ satisfaction in order to return to the team.

Not sure Kyrie what Kyrie is willing to do but he’s working towards a return. Either way, Irving went down the wrong road, and his continued defiance in the name of faulty history and logic might be the final straw.