Kyrie Irving: Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving is back in the NBA Finals ...

Boston Celtics: Boston Celtics are one game away from a championship title. ...
Published Time: 31.05.2024 - 19:04:38 Modified Time: 31.05.2024 - 19:04:38

“We have to get ready for that court turning gold, as I like to say. The shoes turn gold. The jerseys turn gold. As a kid, that is what you dream of. Getting to the Finals and playing against the best of the best as the whole world is watching.” Kyrie Irving

“We have to get ready for that court turning gold, as I like to say. The shoes turn gold. The jerseys turn gold. As a kid, that is what you dream of. Getting to the Finals and playing against the best of the best as the whole world is watching.”

It wasn’t long ago that the whole basketball world was watching Irving’s illustrious NBA career turn from living amongst the elite in Cleveland and Boston to the wrong direction with the Brooklyn Nets.

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Irving, who grew up in West Orange, New Jersey, left the Celtics in 2019 in hopes of an amazing homecoming in Brooklyn with fellow NBA stars Kevin Durant and eventually James Harden. Title aspirations were warranted at that time. Irving, however, missed nearly the entire Nets home schedule during the 2021-22 season after declining to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. He was then suspended for eight games during the 2022-23 season after he posted a link on social media to a documentary with antisemitic material. Irving also lost his Nike shoe deal.

Irving played in 143 games in three-plus seasons with the Nets, including a mere 74 with Durant. There was no title or major success in Brooklyn, and Durant, Harden and Irving all wanted out. Irving’s trade request was met was on Feb. 5, 2023, when he was dealt to the Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and future draft picks.

“I’m grateful because it wasn’t an easy road,” Irving said. “I was able to grow as a person. When you’re in a professional environment such as this and you can only be judged by your on-court performances and what say off the court and they don’t know who you are, I think that is a little unfair. But that is the life that we live in and life is not fair all the time.”

Irving had the luxury of joining forces with another NBA star, Luka Doncic, in Dallas. But Irving’s true connection with the Mavs was with head coach and mentor Jason Kidd and general manager Nico Harrison.

As a kid, Irving was a fan of Kidd, a Hall of Fame point guard. The two share the same birthday (March 23) and bonded over a dinner in Boston while Irving was playing for Celtics in 2019. Harrison became familiar with Irving when the latter was playing AAU basketball on the Nike circuit as a teen, and later through their mutual friendship with the late Kobe Bryant. Irving has also connected well with not only Doncic and his teammates in Dallas, but throughout the franchise’s basketball operations.

“When you’re around familiar , it can go either way,” Irving told Andscape. “I just really tried my best to understand the I’m working with better. I approached my daily meditation and my daily prayers with a lot more attention with the understanding that this is not going to be a perfect journey. If I’m expecting to be perfect, I might as well get off this road now.”

Irving averaged 27 points, six assists and five rebounds in 20 games for the 2022-23 Mavericks. But the combination of Irving and Doncic didn’t spark a playoff berth last season. After their play this postseason, however, Irving and Doncic are being compared to some of the greatest backcourts in NBA history. Midseason trades for Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington and the development into an elite defense after the trade deadline solidified the Mavs as a title contender.

“Coming to Dallas, I know how much noise would be around us,” Irving told Andscape. “I know how much chaos was going to try to be created. But I have to give a shot out to a lot our staff, our PR , our day-to-day maintenance of physical therapy, upper management because they really instilled the confidence to be myself.

“They always had my back. And that is all I really needed to be myself.”

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All the noise off the court has quieted around Irving, and the noise on the court from the Mavs in regard to Irving is all praise for his offensive prowess and leadership.

“You look at what Ky has gone through, it’s cool,” Kidd told Andscape. “He trusted that we had his back, and he was going to do the right thing. And he did the right thing.”

Doncic, who scored 36 points in Game 5, said: “He has been great to have. He’s helped me mature. He has helped me see basketball in so many different ways.”

Irving’s three NBA Finals appearances took place with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2015-17. The lone title for Irving and in Cavs history was their 4-3 series win against the Golden State Warriors in 2016. Irving was 26 years old when he last played in the NBA Finals in 2017. Now, the 32-year-old Irving who Doncic jokingly described as “old” is playing in his first Finals without James.

“I like to relish in those challenges because when you are a young player you take it for granted to a certain degree,” Irving said. “But now I’m in my 30s and I’m able to stand in my own square comfortably and more confidently, knowing what my presence holds and knowing what my leadership is capable of doing. I’m around good and they’re supporting me selflessly. You just look back and the failures are just on the other side of success.

“I just continue to chop wood, carry water, stay poised, make sure we keep the main thing the main thing and acknowledge how far we’ve grown and how long we took to get to this moment. I try to quantify the last [seven] years, but it’s really been my whole entire career. It’s been a long career. I have to look at it that way. It’s a journey, but I’m grateful to be here with my teammates.”

In order for Irving to be a NBA champion again, he must beat his old Celtics starting on the road with Game 1 in Boston on June 6.

In two seasons with the Celtics from 2018 to 2020, Irving couldn’t win the franchise’s long-coveted 18th championship. Celtics fans still hold a grudge against Irving for not living up to his promise of re-signing with the franchise, then stomping on the Lucky the leprechaun logo at midcourt in Boston as a member of the Nets in 2021. The eight-time NBA All-Star wants to remain on the positive vibe he is on and play ball rather than dwell on the past.

“I’m looking forward to seeing them as an opponent,” Irving told Andscape the Celtics. “They earned their way just like we earned our way. You’re going to see a chess match between two great teams.”

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