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 how smart he was not. In 2021, Kyrie has taken his selfishness to another level. Brooklyn was supposed to contend for the title. Kyrie and KD were supposed to be the antidote to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, or Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Kyrie has decided he can pick and choose when he wants to work. He wants to do his thing and he acts as if he owns the team. He is labor. He works for someone else. They can cancel his contract if he is in default. Perhaps Kyrie doesn’t care about the $35 million but he should care about this. The John Wooden rule.
Wooden warned, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation because your character is what you really are and your reputation is what others think you are.” But it is his reputation that can get Kyrie’s contract voided.
Four 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 and does 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. Suddenly, 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.
Kyrie lost to a team that only had 5 players. They lost by11 points to a 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. And took zero responsibility.
An exchange between Irving and Ty Lue during the Cavs Final years says a lot about how Irving processes his world. Lue wanted Irving to bring the ball up quickly to facilitate the offense. Irving didn’t understand the instructions. Why? 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. He’s not leading in Brooklyn now.
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. Respect for histology and theoretical analysis shapes their thinking. Purposefully, intellectuals are educated in the facts on both sides. And they can do more than one thing at a time. Fulfill their contract and write a book. Go to work and champion causes that matter.
Regardless of Kyrie’s 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. GM’s are on notice. Kyrie may keep doing this again and again and again, like an entitled and spoiled 16-year-old.
Beyond this disaster, highlighted even more because the Nets are playing the Knicks tonight, is that Kyrie Irving rubs people the wrong way. They don’t trust him. They don’t understand him. They don’t want to deal with him. When Kobe Bryant was alive, Bryant was able to keep Kyrie on a straighter path. Because he looked up to Bryant, and he wanted to please him, Kyrie wouldn’t have dared go off the island like this and bear the brunt of Bryant’s wrath. But his mentor is gone and Kyrie is out in the world flailing his wings like a broken butterfly sinking to the ground.
Seemingly, he doesn’t want his career anymore. Or, his paycheck.