Before George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks became symbols of police sadism, before peaceful protesters were gassed to score political points, Kyrie Irving said the earth was flat. He said it proudly, to the chagrin of every science teacher who teaches gravity. Irving’s reasoning was art. There has never been a photograph of earth, he claimed, as if the White Sands Missile Range wasn’t responsible for the first photograph of Earth in 1946.
Kyrie thinks he’s the smartest person in the room but we all hated the smart kid in class who was always showing off.
Three years ago, Irving apologized for his flat earth quip. He said he didn’t realize his randomized comment would create such a furor. That, in and of itself, is Irving’s greatest flaw: a lack of self-awareness, of time and place. Seemingly he’s unaware that everything he says is digested, contextualized, and processed. It has to pass the B.S. test before it can have legitimacy.
The city of Boston hates him because, unprompted, Irving said he would re-sign with the team as a max free agent. And then he went to Brooklyn. Consistency isn’t an Irving thing.
How about when he was stewing after a loss and blamed it on the “young guys”. He famously talked about how they didn’t know how to win a championship. That’s true. Young players have to grow up a little. But I remember Kyrie in his third year in Cleveland. He was the best player on the team and an All-Star for the second year in a row. The Cavs had just drafted Anthony Bennett and in February the Lakers were in town.
The Lakers only had 8 players available. Nick Young hurt his knee and left the game at halftime. Chris Kaman fouled out. Six players were left. Then Jordan Farmar hurt his leg. Five guys. Robert Sacre fouled out with 3 minutes left which would have left the Lakers with 4 active players. According to the rules, an NBA team cannot have 4 players. The Lakers got a tech for having to leave Sacre in the game. If he fouled again, that would be another tech.
On the floor for Cleveland was Kyrie Irving, C.J. Miles, Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters, and Anthony Bennett. They lost by11 points to a Lakers team with little talent on the floor (Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant were injured), and to a team whose best player on the floor was Ryan Kelly. The same Ryan Kelly who is no longer in the league after 163 games. Irving was awful in that game, missing 9 of his 14 shots. He had 11 points.
Perhaps he’s forgotten it but Kyrie was a “young guy” once upon a time. He left a lot of misery in his wake until LeBron James decided to come home. The empathy Kyrie is trying to shepherd and champion for Black Lives Matter has been mostly missing his entire career.
An exchange between Irving and Ty Lue about strategy says a lot about how Irving processes information. Lue wanted Irving to bring the ball up quickly to facilitate the offense. Irving didn’t follow. He could get his shot off anytime, in any part of the shot clock so what was Lue talking about? Lue then had to clarify. No. Not your game Kyrie. Your teammates. To which Irving said that was LeBron’s job, not his.
Irving has called himself a generational leader. I don’t even know what that means. I do know he didn’t lead his team in Boston and they were glad that he bolted to Brooklyn. Maybe Kyrie thinks because he drilled that jumper in Steph Curry’s face in a game 7 that leadership attributes were automatically bestowed upon him by default.
Kyrie believes he’s an intellectual. By practice, an intellectual thinks before they speak. They mull over problems and situations and are very deliberate with every word. They aren’t impulsive nor are they inconsistent. A respect of histology and theoretical analysis shapes their thinking. Purposefully, intellectuals are educated in the facts on both sides.
A lot of what Kyrie is saying in his support of Black Lives Matter is important. And a lot is just Kyrie speak, particularly this talking point that he would give everything up to fight social justice. Kyrie isn’t Muhammad Ali. He’s not going to let the CBA be blown up and ruin his economic capital. (Ali was so broke after refusing to go to the Vietnam War and having his belt stripped, Joe Frazier snuck him money weekly.)
Regardless of his intentions, and regardless of the change he is desperately seeking, reputations are reputations for a reason. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, or so the saying goes. My problem with Kyrie is the inability to express details that are six inches deep. He loves to pontificate on the headline soundbite. But all social problems are deep-seated and complex and frankly stuck. A simple solution is an insult; it can’t cut through the muck of emotions. Otherwise, the problem would be solved by now.
The truth of the NBA is that to sit out Orlando would be a self-inflicted wound with Kyrie doing all the cutting. It if happened, if NBA players were the aggressors in their own financial chaos, nothing would be solved. Because. Just like rain falls out a gray sky, a cop will use excessive force again, on some black or brown person in some city or town.
Staying out of Orlando is not going to fix a problem that is rooted in racial fear, military training, and arrogance, a problem that has been around since slave catchers began their hunt for runaway slaves. Kyrie’s passion is noteworthy. But he can’t fix this by himself in two months.
A larger issue is that Kyrie Irving rubs people the wrong way. He is a point guard who has the temperament and personality of a shooting guard. His so-called idea of having the players break off from their billion-dollar partners and create their own league is careless. Any new league would have to unionize and create a new CBA with owners. Money would have to be funneled in via revenue streams. All the opportunities he and his peers receive is because they are standing on the shoulders of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor and Bill Russell. Kyrie dismisses history for his own gain. He’s not someone who can bring the masses together because he’s not trusted. Thus its a missed moment for Black Lives Matter. Right cause. Wrong spokesperson.