Thanking Kyrie Irving, a tribute from a diehard Cleveland Cavaliers fan
Dear Kyrie Irving,
Sometimes, breakups are really hard and really awkward. Whether it is your significant other or in this case, a superstar athlete wanting to leave your team, it never gets easier.
Coming off of a putrid 2010-11 season with an overall record 19-63 and an NBA record 26-game losing streak, things could not be any worse for the Cleveland Cavaliers after losing LeBron James to the Miami Heat the offseason before. But, with a stroke of luck coming in the fact that the 2011 Los Angeles Clippers first round pick, traded to the Cavs when they acquired Baron Davis, turned into the first overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. With that selection, the Cavaliers selected Kyrie Irving out of Duke University and had their franchise point guard and a bright future.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and after the conclusion of the 2017 NBA Finals word leaked out that Irving wanted out of Cleveland due to not wanting to play in LeBron James’ shadow any longer. While Irving did give his list of teams, the Cavs did find a deal that worked best for the team by trading Irving to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and an unprotected 2018 first round pick from the Brooklyn Nets.
While the demand to be traded will certainly ruffle lots of Cleveland fans’ feathers, people should appreciate and still cheer for Irving no matter where he spends the rest of his NBA career.
When the Cavs were at absolute rock bottom, Irving was a shining light for what was to come. He dazzled during his rookie season and was able to make a team that only won 21 games still watchable all while winning Rookie of the Year along the way.
He broke ankles and egos, especially then-Pistons guard Brandon Knight in the Rising Stars Game:
He was even a star of his own viral marketing campaign! The Uncle Drew ads were met with critical acclaim and the idea was Irving’s and Irving’s alone. Pepsi just provided the opportunity to help make his dream a reality and now a feature-length Uncle Drew film is now in the works.
Irving was clutch, he was fun, he could score in extreme volumes, but, he never could get past the criticism during his early years with the Cavs. Many people criticized him as a leader and not being good enough to help the team reach the playoffs, with the closest he ever got was a lost season coached by Mike Brown and playing in a super-slim diet Big 3 with Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes.
But Irving’s game is a lot like fine wine, it takes time to grow and really flourish and when LeBron James returned to Cleveland, his leadership and taking Uncle Drew under his wing is what sparked Irving becoming the player he is today.
During his last few years with Cleveland, Irving was beyond sensational for the Cavs. In his first season in the new Big Three era Irving scorched the San Antonio Spurs for a career-high 57 points and willed the team back to victory against a possible NBA Finals opponent:
The other biggest criticism Irving has faced his entire time with Cleveland was the fact that he was unable to stay healthy, and this was again discussed after the Cavaliers first NBA Finals matchup with the Golden State Warriors when Irving shattered his kneecap moments heading into overtime of Game 1. He then responded by getting healthy the right way, taking his time to come back and helping lead the team back again to the NBA Finals, again against the Golden State Warriors.
Thanks to Irving, the Cavaliers were able to capture their first NBA Championship and Cleveland’s first title in over half a century because of this shot:
After this shot, Irving was immortalized as one of the greatest players in Cavaliers history and his #2 will someday hang in the rafters along with #23. He was able to keep the Cavs fun and interesting after they lost the greatest player of all time and eventually he was able to deliver the same team, and more importantly its city and its fans their first championship in quite some time.
As said before breakups are hard, they are awkward and the breakup between Kyrie Irving and the city of Cleveland is no different. It will definitely be hard to see a player we watched grow into what he is today in a different uniform, especially on the opening night of the 2016-17 regular season. But, when Irving is introduced to his former home crowd as a visitor he should not be booed. Instead, we should cheer. We should celebrate that one of the greats was able to play for our favorite team and help deliver us an NBA Championship along the way.
For me, besides LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Kyrie Irving will remain one of my all-time favorite players to wear the wine and gold. From all the early constant coaching changes, the awkward growing phase with the Big 3 and eventually the championship, Irving has always remained as a superstar for the Cavaliers. Cavs Nation wishes you nothing but the best in the next chapter of your career and thank you, for everything.