Recently, the Dallas Mavericks traded Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, a 2029 first-round pick, and two future second-round picks to the Brooklyn Nets for Markieff Morris and superstar point guard Kyrie Irving. Irving would join the team in Los Angeles to prepare for his debut and score 24 points in a 110-104 victory.
It was actually his first victory in any debut with a team he had previously played for (Cleveland, Boston, or Brooklyn). The team would then travel to Sacramento where they’d continue their road trip with back to back games against the Kings. The team would split the games, but Irving would still score 20 plus points (25 and 28 points respectfully).
In the postgame presser on Saturday, Irving was excited to play on Monday against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the American Airlines Center, located at his new place of residence, Dallas, Texas. He was quoted saying he was ready to, “…bring my game to Dallas and excite those fans. I don’t think they’ve ever seen anybody like me.”
I got a chance to sit down and talk to Kyrie Irving about his relationship with his new coach and team general manager, guards he’s emulated his game after, and how he’s grown not as a player, but as a person.
Describe your relationship with Jason Kidd and Nico Harrison
KI: Man, it goes back years with Nico Harrison… seeing me in high school, seeing the potential that I had and being a part of one of the greatest brands in the world, so it was a matchup that was made way in the past… a relationship that was made to grow and that’s all we’re doing now. I feel like I’m in a different place in my life at thirty years old [and] he’s in a different place being the GM, now we can unite and do some great things hopefully in the future.
[And] J-Kidd, I mean I’ve been watching him since I was a little “pup” going to the Nets games watching him put up dang near triple doubles every night. Of course, I watched him when he was in Dallas, watched him when he was in Phoenix, but I got to watch him up close when I was in New Jersey. So, there’s a respect that I have for his legacy, his Hall of Fame career, and what he brings as a coach. So, Nico and J-Kidd are two special people, for sure.
Who are some other point guards that you looked up to that you emulate your game after?
KI: Other point guards that I looked up to? Uh, Isiah Thomas, I mean I [wore] number 11. That’s my guy right there. He’s helped me a lot throughout my career. Deron Williams, for sure. Going to see him live up close when I was 17-18 going to his Elite Camp. A.I. transcended culture, on and off the court. I mean, just taught you how to be yourself. I’ve tried to take different strengths from point guards that I’ve watched.
John Stockton, of course, just out of respect for doing dang near everything out there on the court. Steals, assists, being efficient with the jumpshot. Oscar Robertson… I mean, the list can go on and on. I’m trying to think about all the guys, but like… Pete Maravich, who’s one of my favorites at the [point guard position]. Steve Nash has been on there too.
Yeah, it’s a bunch of other guys that I’m missing. Oh! Most importantly, my godfather, Rod Strickland. A lot of my talent from my family roots comes from him and comes from my dad, ultimately. My dad wasn’t a point guard, he was a shooting guard, so… they both taught me the nuances of being a point guard and a shooting guard. That’s why I call myself a hybrid, I like being in the middle like the Kobes and a Rod Strickland type finisher game.
You know, I like that I can be Ray Allen and also somehow be J-Kidd… allowing myself to be a hybrid of those guys.
Outside of basketball, what are some other things you bring to the cities you play in?
KI: What I think I brought to every team was a sense of… a genuine love for the game of basketball. A student of the game. Most important for me, was just loving on people, being there for them in whatever capacity I could be. Learning about new people coming from different places.
This business, this industry that we’re in, this game, it unites a lot of people. So, I like to utilize basketball as a vehicle to spark different conversations, but also get to know people and what they think about the world and how they feel about themselves ultimately and how I can be of service if they need me. Basketball is one thing to take care of, it’s an artform, it’s a craft that I’ve dedicated myself to and I’ve learned so much being in different situations and circumstances.
Playing with loads of teammates, getting to know personalities, getting to know people’s ticks, strengths and weaknesses. I’ve just really been an observer, as well as a person that leads by example. So, all and all, I just really enjoy every learning experience that I can speak on now because I wasn’t always in this balanced “place” to say that impacting people is really why I’m here.
What was the moment where you evaluated your life to seek balance?
KI: When I was always going through my childhood, I had questions about things outside of the game of basketball. How do I develop better as a human being? As a man, as a thinker, as a curious person. That’s my personality and sometimes those personality traits don’t fit well into basketball arenas all the time because it’s really just about the game and performing well and executing. So, I just had to find that balance of how I pour myself fully into basketball and I pour myself fully into learning more about who I am and where I come from. That duality is something I hold dear to my heart because I know I need that balance.
Basketball makes me extremely happy. It provides unbelievable things for me and my family, but I don’t take it for granted and I’m not selfish about my talent. I want to share it with others, share it with my teammates, share it with the world. So, learning the difference between what’s personal in the business, on the court in the basketball game, and then what’s personal to me off the court and what I invest my time into. Reading books, meditating, praying, getting closer to God, getting closer to my family, getting closer to friends, and ultimately impacting the community to help steer the youth in a better direction than I grew up in. I don’t necessarily speak on what I saw as a child, but I saw enough to know that I needed to make a change in the next generation’s lives.
If they saw similar things [to what] I’ve seen and they don’t go to therapy, or they don’t have help, or they don’t have the necessary services to call or be around, or a mentor or a guide, it can be tough to navigate through life. I think that’s ultimately what I went through in my life, which is difficult. When you go through those difficulties, you’ve got to know how to handle them. So, now I’m just teaching the youth and myself every day and my kids how to deal with difficulties. How to deal with those difficult circumstances and how to talk through it.
Most of our kids don’t talk through their emotions [because] they don’t know how. They usually go to their phones and stuff like that, so I’m trying to get them away from that and just draw in more genuine love that they feel from the people around them. We all make mistakes and when you do make those mistakes, and when I have made those mistakes, I’ve had some tough, hard lessons come from those mistakes.
I think because of that, it’s enabled me to be able to navigate life a lot easier because I have people to talk to about them. Growing up in the public eye since I was 17-18 years old, there’s nothing normal about my life at times. The expectations that others have of me, sometimes the expectations I have of myself. I can be putting too much pressure on myself and if anybody is human, they’ve put too much pressure on themselves. When you put too much pressure, you feel constricted and a lot of intensity.
I try to live a stress free life. Pray every day, meditate every day, balance myself. Make sure I’m breathing, breathing through my emotions and just not take for granted the small things God has blessed us with. Simple ingredients, simplifying life has allowed my love to grow for others. Allowed my love to grow for myself because self love’s the best love. Self respect is the best respect and people start treating you differently when you start treating yourself differently. Creating those healthy boundaries with any and every relationship.
Though my journey has not been perfect, I’ve been through some crazy situations based on things I’ve done or things that I’ve said. I believe those situations are avoidable now because I’m in a balanced place: emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically. It’s all been something I’ve been able to learn and I’m grateful for that.
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