Kyrie Irving has always lusted after power. It was behind his move to ditch LeBron James and have his own team. That failed badly. Now the signs point to a Boston divorce and a quickie marriage in Brooklyn. With his new marriage, he is taking on reinforcements. Jay Z’s sports agency Roc Nation will now represent Kyrie. Jay Z used to own a small sliver of the Nets. Get how all this is coming together?
Kyrie is listening to all the Rich Paul drama. He’s jealous. Paul owns the market as the millennial uber agent. He gets the clients and the headlines. He coordinates moves and GM’s are afraid of him. He’s a salesman. He’s a marketer. He’s a listener. He’s aggressive. He manipulates media and embraces culture. And more importantly, he’s a tireless worker. When Rich Paul is your agent, rest assured you won’t be standing still. There will be moves.
Wanting that kind of agent star power, Kyrie has changed gears because he is changing his life. In New York, he needs a New York guy. Sliding up to Jay Z, a fixture in the city, gives Kyrie the social capital he has always been desperate for.
There isn’t a NBA player who wants to be a superstar more than Kyrie. But his game and his personality are blocking Kyrie from everything he thinks he wants.
He’s not a shot maker like Steph. He doesn’t incentivize teammates like Lillard. He’s not relentless energy like Russell Westbrook. He doesn’t defend like John Wall. Forget putting him into any kind of Chris Paul comparison. He fails on every metric, particularly leadership. He always needs to apologize for something because in the moment his impulses get in the way and he trashes Thanksgiving or he says the world is flat-oops just kidding- or he comes out and nitpicks at his teammates.
Kyrie isn’t the complete superstar package: beloved teammate, fearless competitor, shakes off pressure, handles losing with class, handles winning with class.
But Kyrie is a shot maker. He will give you 28 points and 6 or 7 assists. He spaces the floor and he has to be defended or else. Trouble. He is a clutch player and he competes at a high level. But the star thing gets mixed up in his head. And he lacks patience.
He could have been the star in Cleveland if he just waited one more year. Everyone knew LeBron was leaving for California. Then he would have had his own team and could orchestrate his career the way he wanted. But he got antsy. Same thing with the Celtics. It didn’t go well this year and so he’s out. Which is the Kyrie problem. He wants what he can’t have and he doesn’t want what he does have.
In Cleveland, he was happy to lose and be the star. He was unhappy as the LeBron sidekick even after he hit the game winning shot to ruin the Warriors perfect season. He was happy with the Celtics until he was unhappy that young players were young players and personalized his criticism. With Brooklyn, he has another young team and what has he learned?
Changing agents isn’t going to alter much. He’ll get the max wherever he goes. Roc Nation will maximize on Kyrie in New York. He may have insider access he wouldn’t have had with another agent. But it’s the basketball that counts. And with Kyrie in Brooklyn, the Nets are a 4 or 5 seed. Basically, they are swapping D’Angelo Russell for him. Perhaps 8 more points per game but worse leadership. And the Nets are young with holes to fill on the roster. Players have to mature. Just like Boston.
He has a title so perhaps that doesn’t matter to him anymore. But if he is copying LeBron James, he has to have championships as his blueprint.
Kyrie isn’t the best player in the conference. Or the second best player. He isn’t the best point guard in the NBA. Or, the second best point guard. He has immense talent but it’s hard to figure out what he wants his career to be. He couldn’t take the criticism of Boston blaming him for everything that went wrong so how is he going to deal with New York?
For someone who wants power so badly, he doesn’t get the nuts and bolts of power. It isn’t privilege. You don’t have it handed to you because of a max deal. You earn it.