NBA: Stop removing context from the Kyrie Irving career narrative

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images /

Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving deserves criticism for his basketball-related flaws, but what happened to context in the NBA?

A contingency of analysts have emerged with troubling information about Kyrie Irving. Between the talks of him needing LeBron James in order to be successful and the citation of the fact that he never won before teaming up with the four-time MVP, the talk has been incessant around the NBA.

While constructive and insightful criticism is always welcome, there’s one thing missing from the complaints by some around the Association: Context.

Some have compared Irving to Scottie Pippen and Kevin McHale, complaining that he isn’t sacrificing in the way that they were able to. Those individuals are also ignoring the fact that Pippen and McHale weren’t asked to consistently take the final shot in big games—the ultimate ego stroke.

Irving, a four-time All-Star, and not a situational clutch shooter, is.

Some have stated that Irving failed to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a single postseason appearance in any of his first three NBA seasons. That’s an admittedly fair concern, especially if it isn’t a projection of future failure, but instead a reason for skepticism.

It’s also worth noting that Stephen Curry led the Golden State Warriors to zero postseason appearances in his first three seasons, and LeBron James didn’t make the playoffs until Year 3.

Lest we forget: The Warriors trading Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut was viewed as a monumental mistake at the time it happened, due in some part to Curry being viewed as a non-star.

Thus, if we’re going to allow the formative years of a player’s career to speak for what’s to come, then why bother keeping anyone in the NBA beyond Year 3?

This isn’t an article that implies that Irving will become the next Kobe Bryant if or when he leaves Cleveland. It isn’t ignoring the information presented, nor is it disputing the disturbing nature of how bad the Cavaliers were with Irving on the court and without James.

There’s simply no way around the fact that Irving is a dynamic young talent in an almost—almost—incomparable situation.

Much as Bryant was closing out games for Shaquille O’Neal, Irving has been doing the same for James. It was Irving who hit the game-winner over Curry to secure the 2016 NBA title, and it was Irving who got Cleveland its 2016-17 regular season win over Golden State with a similar shot over Klay Thompson.

For those who have watched the games, it wasn’t surprising to see Irving close out a big game for Cleveland—he’s been doing it for quite some time now.

That’s a 14-minute video of clutch shots for a 25-year-old who hasn’t even entered his prime yet.

Whether or not Irving’s belief that he can be a true No. 1 is flawed, it’s his right to explore that possibility. We all may question how he could leave a winning situation, but how many of us actually have first-hand knowledge of the inner workings of the organization?

How many of us have blocked out the fact that Irving was asked by a reporter how James has helped him as a father figure?

How many of us have casually said, “Kyrie hit the shot over Steph,” and then frolicked towards the land of praising LeBron James without regard for his teammates?

How many of us have forgotten that Cleveland was on the brink of elimination until Irving and James both dominated Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals?

How many of us have forgotten that, while James is quite clearly the No. 1 player in Cleveland, Irving was an All-Star before The King returned?

The harsh reality here is that the people criticizing Irving are the same individuals who defended Kevin Durant. One could chalk it up to the people who misuse the rings argument, but Irving is entering the prime of his career and has already faced his mortality in the form of multiple knee injuries.

If Irving, the man who made the shot that gave Cleveland its first ever NBA championship, believes that his career will play out better elsewhere, then so be it.

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Just stop ignoring the context of what you post about what’s to come of Kyrie Irving if he leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers.