For those of you who follow the NBA I'm sure you have seen the Kyrie Irving ordeal that has gone down in the recent weeks. I'm sure you are also familiar with the controversies surrounding him going back to his days in Cleveland and Boston. It seems that no matter where he goes, what kind of special treatment is afforded to him, or what level of success and stardom he reaches the drama doesn't end. To this end I would like to take a moment to shine the spotlight on his recent drama in Brooklyn. So let's go on a little trip shall we.
Kyrie forced his way out of Cleveland in 2017 because he wanted to be the star of his own show. He had just won a championship with Lebron in 2016, but he was tired of being in Lebron's shadow and wanted an opportunity to be his own man, to write his own story. This is hardly the first time two superstar teammates butted heads because they wanted to be the top dog. In fact it's extremely rare for it not to happen. It happened to Shaq/Kobe, Jordan/Pippen, Bird/McHale, KD/Russ and so on. It happens more often than a healthy relationship does like the ones shared by Duncan/Parker/Ginoboli or Curry/Thompson. To want out of the shadow and into the light is completely understandable and I take no issue with it. Kyrie gets his wish and off to Boston he goes during the 2017-18 season.
Now we get to the sunshine and unicorns portion of Kyrie's journey, WRONG. Kyrie never settled into Boston. The fans who were initially welcoming of him quickly turned sour towards him. Part of the blame may be placed on the fact that the Celtics traded away fan favorite Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie which isn't exactly his fault. The rest of the blame however falls completely on Kyrie. He and teammates had countless falling outs. They would have a fallout, makeup with a little chill out period, and then have another falling out again. It's like that couple you can never figure out why they're still together because all they ever do is fight in front of everyone and storm off, then you'll see them an hour later and it's as if nothing ever happened. The shame of this situation is that if it was ever going to workout for Kyrie as "the man" Boston was it. The Celtics had a very talented roster with a developing Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum. Marcus Smart was coming into his own and Gordon Hayward was working his way back from his devastating leg injury. Al Horford wasn't the Philly Al and was a very solid big who could stretch the floor. It was the perfect situation that would never work. Part of me believes Kyrie never wanted it to work in Boston, he never fit in with his teammates and the reports were that he hated Boston. He hated living there and let this affect his relationship with coaches, the front office, and teammates. The 2019 free agency period would come up quickly and Kyrie would be gone.
Where does the "I can run my own show" Kyrie go now? He does what every player does that realizes he can't win by himself and finds a superstar to team up with. He hooks up with his good buddy Kevin Durant and they head off into the sunset together in Brooklyn. Wait whats that? Oh its only two years later and Kyrie decided he's not going to show up for any basketball related activities in the middle of the season? He's out mask-less at a club for his sister's birthday in the middle of a pandemic? A pandemic which has forced the NBA to put rigid safety protocols in place for it's teams? He and KD also have a "very distant" relationship now? Kyrie's mad Brooklyn hired Steve Nash who wasn't his exact coaching request? Well that didn't take long.
This is my problem with the player empowerment era we are going through in leagues like the NBA. Maybe Kyrie is the problem, or maybe he's just a victim of the new age NBA. A league where players can now seemingly do as they please, force trades to a destination of their choice as soon as they don't like their current situation, and sign record breaking contract after record breaking contract. A league where Kyrie decides he just doesn't feel like playing basketball, tells no one in the Nets organization leaving them completely blindsided, and gives them no timetable for his return. All while still collecting his check even though he's in complete breach of his contract. The league does nothing and the organization does nothing. They do nothing because they are scared of their players today. Scared that something they do may upset the players and the union. It shows how disconnected these leagues and players have become from middle America. Imagine for a second your average worker decides they don't feel like going to work for 2 weeks, doesn't tell their boss they're not showing up or give them a reason why, but still expects their paycheck and their job to be there for them when they decide to come back. Shame it doesn't work that way.
I understand Kyrie said he went off to work on social justice issues and things related to that. While this is respectable, it is still no excuse for his actions. Players work on social justice initiatives all the time in their free time and have been assisted by the league in many instances. You are contractually obligated to play basketball at certain times of the year. Like Stephen A. said "you can walk and chew gum at the same time". The way I see it Kyrie has 3 options. He can show up and play holding up his end of his contract and showing his teammates and coaches in Brooklyn that he's there for them and to win, which appears to be what he is doing now. He can forfeit his money and go pursue his other passions. Or he can retire until he is ready to commit completely to basketball. It's a real shame that we can't seem to just enjoy the generational talent that is Kyrie without having to deal with off the court antics seemingly every other second. Im sure his teammates and coaches would agree.
I'd like to say this is the end of this saga, but I have a feeling there's going to be a part 2 at some point down the line.