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Daniel Caesar
Daniel Caesar
May 20, 2024

The Evershifting Paradigm of Kyrie Irving

The Evershifting Paradigm of Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving is among the most important basketball players of the NBA’s modern generation. With saying that however, you cannot mention how controversial and complex his career has been so far. While 12 years into his career, we can say the 8-time All-Star and crafty ball handler will most likely end up in the hall of fame; it’s important to look back on the many shifts Irving has made throughout his career to get to where he is, and where he might go from here.

 

Cleveland’s Next Guy (2011-2014)

In The Summer of 2010, LeBron James, Cleveland’s homegrown hero, who had just won back-to-back MVPs, as well as lead them to a Finals appearance in 2007, left the Cavs to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat. Cleveland began rebuilding and restarting their franchise from the ground up. The team went 19-63, starkly contrasting their league-high 61-win season the previous year. On February 24, 2011, the Cavs agreed to trade All-Star Point Guard Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for veteran guard Baron Davis and the team’s 2011 First Round Pick. This trade would be way more impactful than anyone could think, as the Clippers won the Draft Lottery, and the number one pick was sent to Cleveland. With that first pick, Cleveland chose Kyrie Irving as their next face of the franchise. Despite missing almost his entire Freshman year at Duke, Irving was the top prospect in the draft, and the new-looking Cavs team took a swing and hit with him. Despite the Cavaliers finishing 29th in the league, record-wise, A 19-year-old Irving led the team in scoring and won Rookie of The Year, the first Cav to do so since LeBron James. In his sophomore year, Irving was voted in as an All-Star and became the youngest player to score 40+ points in Madison Square Garden. While it was clear by his Sophomore year that Kyrie was The Next Man Up in Cleveland, he didn’t have a lot of talent or help around him. Besides rookie Dion Waiters and fellow 2011 Draftee Tristian Thompson, the Cavs weren’t building around Irving. That all changed when they won the 2013 Draft Lottery and selected Anthony Bennett; However, Bennett ended up being a bust and didn’t make too much of an impact. Lightning struck twice for Dan Gilbert and the Cavs; however, the next year, with only the 9th best odds of winning the draft lottery, the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the world by winning the lottery in back-to-back years. The 2014 Draft Class was clearer than the previous year, headlined by future All-Stars Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Julius Randle. The Cavs selected Wiggins first overall; however, while Cleveland got their new golden boy, their former golden boy was having some troubles down in South Beach. That same year, LeBron James and the Miami Heat got squashed in the Finals by the San Antonio Spurs. “The Heatles” had been showing signs of slowing down for a while, as a majority of the team’s roster were veterans and getting old and regressing. Mike Miller, the team’s sixth man, was waived following the team’s 2013 Championship run, which created issues with roster depth. Realizing the Heat was a sinking ship and seeing that the guy Cleveland replaced him with was starting to do well, LeBron James announced on July 11, 2014, that he’d be returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

LeBron’s Sidekick (2014-2017)

With LeBron returning to Cleveland and promising a Championship, Kyrie took a backseat. He’d have to take another backseat when, a month later, the Cavaliers traded Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett to The Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for All-NBA Forward Kevin Love, who was coming off the best season of his career. Kyrie traded his team leader role for a backseat and a real shot at a championship. In his first season with LeBron, Kyrie reached the NBA Finals in his first-ever playoff run; however battled some knee injury problems during the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks and would eventually get sidelined from the rest of the Finals Series against the Golden State Warriors following game one. The Cavs would lose that series in Six Games. Irving was also named to his first All-NBA Team in 2015. The next year, a healthy Cavs team would repeat as Eastern Conference Champions and face the record-breaking 71-9 Golden State Warriors for a second year. Irving initially struggled in the Finals, going 7-22 in Game 1, and the Cavs were down 3-1, until, in Game 5, Irving and LeBron James made history by both scoring 41 points each, becoming the first teammates to score 40+ in a finals game. In an intense Game 7, Irving hit the game-winning three with 53 seconds left to help the Cavaliers win their first-ever championship in franchise history, and LeBron James bring his goal to life. The Cavs went back to the finals against the Warriors (Who had recently acquired Kevin Durant in free agency the year before) for the third year in a row in 2017. Despite Irving’s efforts to keep the series alive, putting up 40 points in Game 4 to prevent a sweep, the Warriors took home their second championship in three years. Irving looked around him, and what he was achieving in Cleveland and believed that he didn’t want to be LeBron’s sidekick anymore and wanted to be the focal point of a team, so he requested a trade. In August 2017, Irving was traded to the Boston Celtics as part of a package that revolved around All-NBA Point Guard Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and a 2018 first-round pick

 

The Failed Leader (2017-2019)

Irving joined a team that was at the time building around its young assets, primarily Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and rookie Jayson Tatum, but had also recently signed veterans Al Horford, Marcus Morris, and Gordon Hayward. This was supposedly the perfect place for Irving to “be the guy” and lead his own team to the finals, however, that wouldn’t be the case. Gordon Hayward went down with a devastating leg injury during the first game of the 2017-18 Season, shutting him down for the rest of the year, and towards the end of the season, Irving was ruled out for the remainder of the season and playoffs to have knee and patella surgery. Despite the loss of Hayward and Irving, The Celtics made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, led by their young players, and took LeBron’s Cavaliers to seven games before losing. Irving and the Celtics were healthier the next year; however, Irving’s attempts to keep his position as “team leader” caused many clashes with teammates and created some chemistry problems in the locker room. The Celtics would lose five games to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the playoffs.

 

Second Tenure of Disappointment (2019-2023)

In July 2019, Kyrie Irving joined the Brooklyn Nets, along with Kevin Durant, attempting to create a new superteam in the East. Durant was out the 2019-20 season rehabbing from an ACL tear during the 2019 Finals, and Irving only played 20 games due to injury. In 2021, the Nets acquired former MVP James Harden, creating a new big three in the East. Irving also became the ninth player in NBA History to join the 50-40-90 club. The second-seed Nets lost in seven games to the eventual Champion Bucks in the second round. The wheels began to fall off the next year when Irving missed the first three months of the season, as well as nearly all of the Nets home games, due to being unvaccinated. Team tensions began rising when James Harden requested a trade after being on the Nets for less than a year. The Nets were swept by Irving’s former Celtics in the first round. At the start of the 2022-23 Season, Irving was suspended after reposting an anti-Semitic documentary on Twitter, which supported Holocaust Denial theories, cited quotes from Adolf Hitler, and claimed Jewish people worship Satan. Irving also had many of his sponsors cut ties with him. In February, he requested a trade from the Nets.

 

Future? (2023-Present)

In 2023, Irving was traded to the Dallas Mavericks again as the second option, this time to Luka Doncic. Irving has seemed to accept his role as a veteran second option on the Championship-contending Mavs and has since been named to his 9th All-Star Game. What the future holds for Kyrie Irving, we may not know; however, we do know that he has had one of the most complex yet impressive careers in recent history.

 

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About the Contributor
Stanley Shivley, Editor
Stanley Shivley is a Junior at Forest Grove High School. He likes watching horror movies, listening to music, and hanging out with friends. He has a cat named Beans, would love to go to the University of Oregon, and his family is most famous for appearing on Jerry Springer in the early 2000s.

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