Stephen A. Smith promised he would have some words for the Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving after the multiple-time All-Star’s Twitter rant on Thursday morning. Smith didn’t disappoint, laying into Irving for not showing up to work and leaving Kevin Durant and his teammates hanging for the majority of the season.
“We are witnessing one of the most delusional athletes in American history,” said Smith.
“He’s lost because he’s so big on telling everybody else they’re lost. Kyrie is also slick, because he’s trying to get away with something I’m not going to allow him to get away from. You can try to paint this issue, Kyrie, into anything that you want. What it comes down to and what everybody is focusing on is you don’t want to show up to work. You want to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, how you want to do it, while you got your hand out for somebody else’s money.”
Nothing Smith said was false.
Irving does not show up to work. The evidence is clear. The NBA regular season is 82 games. In his 11 seasons Irving has played in 60 or more games only five times. He’s only played 70 or more games three times.
Last season, after only playing 20 games the season prior, Irving took an unexcused absence from the team for two weeks and missed seven games. He cited “personal reasons” as an explanation. But he was seen partying indoors maskless at a family member’s birthday party during the absence, violating the league’s COVID-19 policy. He was fined $50,000.
At the beginning of the 2021-22 season the NBA made it clear that they wanted all of its players to be vaccinated. They couldn’t make it mandatory as it would be a violation of the current collective bargaining agreement.
Commissioner Adam Silver also made it clear that the teams had to follow whatever local vaccine mandates exist in their city, and that the league would not be seeking any special exemptions or treatment.
Irving decided not to take the vaccine ,which made him ineligible for home games, and the team initially decided not to have him present as a part-time player. They eventually relented as the omicron variant spread. But he was in and out of the lineup, and that disjointedness impacted team chemistry.
All of this is factual information and media members not only have the right, but it is their job to ask Irving questions and offer commentary about the role his actions had on the performance of the team.
Irving will often deride fame and celebrity as constructs in his sessions with the media, when he does speak. But clearly he understands fame and celebrity and uses it to hold the franchise hostage.
“If we run this back for a second, the entire franchise fail starts and ends with Kyrie Irving,” Matt Sullivan, author of the book “Can’t Knock the Hustle: Inside the Season of Protest, Pandemic, and Progress with the Brooklyn Nets’ Superstars of Tomorrow,” said this week on “The Dan LeBatard Show.”
“He’s one of the most exciting celebrities there is. Even though he kind of denies being an entertainer. He is this kind of pro-player, anti-fan, pro-ego guy who denies being an entertainer at all.”
At the end of it all, Irving is someone that wants to do things his own way and not be held accountable. It’s something we as a society allow uber-talented people to get away with all the time. At some point we shouldn’t.