Known for his insane ability to handle and score the basketball, Irving is also a different character. Some call him eccentric. Others say he has a delusional sense of self. In any event, he’s a tough guy for coaches and teammates to get a real bead on.
In the 2016 NBA Finals, as LeBron’s well-equipped sidekick, Irving hit the shot that delivered “Believeland” aka Cleveland it’s first pro title since 1964 when Jim Brown led the Browns to the NFL championship.
Many thought it’d be the first of many on the shores of Lake Erie, but following a 2017 NBA Finals loss to the Warriors, Irving suddenly wanted out of Cleveland. He wanted out from under LeBron James’ looming shadow. He wanted his own team with a bigger role.
An odd turn of events, considering he had just won a ring. The pairing got to the promised land, but let’s not forget Kyrie never asked to play with James, as Bron chose to return to the Cavs with Uncle Drew already in tow as the main guy.
Rumor has it that the relationship between Irving and James soured in Cleveland because James wanted the franchise to trade Irving for his good friend and superstar point GAWD Chris Paul. Irving got wind of this and immediately wanted out (I would’ve done the same thing).
That off-season, Kyrie was traded to the Celtics and immediately given the keys to the franchise. It was supposed to be Irving, along with new free agent signee Gordon Hayward, rookie sensation Jayson Tatum, and second-year phenom Jaylen Brown, ushering in a new era of Celtics basketball.
The situation was immediately cursed, as on opening night, Hayward suffered a horrific leg injury and was lost for the remainder of the season. Then, Irving began to get hurt often and missed the playoffs, which allowed Tatum and Brown to blossom, pushing Cleveland to a GAME 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The loss was the writing was on the wall, that this move for Kyrie may not be as advertised. The team seemed to play better without the talented, ball-dominant scoring guard. The way that season ended, you knew Brad Stevens had his challenges ahead, working Kyrie back into the lineup while maintaining the same chemistry his young studs developed in the playoffs.
Irving returned the following season and his return was one to be excited about but was also met with great trepidation and tentativeness. The coaching staff, players, and fans wondered how Kyrie would now mesh with the team’s young nucleus. Their greatest fears came true when it was evident that Kyrie wasn’t going to deviate from his usual ball-dominance and it began to stunt the continued growth of Tatum and Brown.
Kyrie even resorted to calling guys out after losses as a way to deflect the real reason for their struggles, which was him. For a guy who wanted away from Bron so he could lead his own team, Kyrie did a horrible job of leading the young Celtics. In the eyes of most NBA fans, he blew his audition for Top Dog.
After proclaiming he wanted to be in Boston long-term during this trying season, the team fizzled out in a 5 game conference semis loss to the Bucks. Irving was very ineffective and disinterested most of the series. Everyone knew his exit was imminent.
In the summer of 2019, he joined the Brooklyn Nets as a free agent, along with megastar Kevin Durant. Durant would miss the entire season nursing an Achilles injury he suffered in the NBA Finals with the Warriors the previous season.
Irving, on the other hand, was still battling injuries and only played 20 games that initial season in BK. He and KD returned for the 2020-21 season and the expectations are championship or bust.
The Nets started out strong and looked to be clicking and then Irving hit the pause button for reasons that are still unexplained, missing seven games. This was a huge cause for concern for first-time head coach Steve Nash.
Kyrie had already said he wouldn’t talk the media during the season, and that ruffled some feathers in Brooklyn and around the league as a whole. Speaking to the media is a requirement and he’s adamant that he’s not going to go there, which definitely offends the New York media.
On January 5th he took a hiatus from the team after a big win over the Utah Jazz. At the time he hadn’t reached out to his team or anyone but reports say his message was he “just didn’t wanna play.” There was speculation that he was protesting social injustice and rumors that he was having mental health issues.
That same day, in a not surprising announcement, the district attorney in Kenosha, Wisconsin decided not to charge the white police officer in the shooting of Jacob Blake, which left the father of three boys paralyzed from the waist down.
Blake was shot seven times in the back outside an apartment complex in front of his three children.
This rekindled outrage across the nation, and we began to see similar nationwide protests for racial justice to the ones that had followed the deaths of George Floyd, Elijah McCain, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans after encounters with the police.
Irving, a strong social justice advocate was reportedly upset about the decision concerning Blake and was a willing and vocal participant in the NBA players’ meetings discussing their course of action after the one-night protest.
Prior to the Bubble season even starting, Kyrie was among a small fraction of players that suggested a boycott of the entire season. Instead, players dedicated the season to a Black Lives Matter platform.
In the WNBA Bubble, the Atlanta Dream did the same thing and their efforts even caused their owner and then-Senator Kelly Loeffler to lose her seat after she supported Trump and made negative remarks about Black Lives Matter.
Irving taking a pause was also said to sort out some things concerning his mental.
I personally have three sons who range in ages (9-14) and I want them to always show their emotional and sensitive side if it means keeping them here for the long haul. You can still be TOUGH!
While on a hiatus that the Nets seemed okay with, a report came out that Irving had purchased a home for the family of George Floyd, who was killed by police as they kneeled on his neck for 8:46 seconds on Memorial Day 2020.
For me, it’s not about the material gift of a home but it’s about his willingness to take some time and be a blessing and advocate for social justice even when he’s dealing with his own personal battles.
The team even acquired superstar James Harden while Irving was away and the BK Nets now have a lethal trio leading the way. Irving returned on Wednesday and looked like himself putting in 37 points, albeit in a loss. He followed that game up on Friday night with another solid offensive performance in a loss against the Cavs. It’s obvious that he’s going to have to scale back his shots and spread the wealth.
The big question is whether or not his ego will allow it.
Kyrie did say this upon his return:
“I’m back, and I’m happy to be back, we added some great pieces, and as we move on I’ll let game and actions speak for itself as I planned on doing. I just needed a pause.”
The media ran with the narrative that he was ditching his team during his absence, showing videos of him attending his sister’s birthday party and harping on the fact that he wasn’t wearing a mask. He was fined over 850K for his “mental vacation.” If his absence was truly a battle against his mentals, he did the right thing. Glad he had the guts to do what was best for him