Kyrie Irving: The Superstar
*Photo via JSOnline
Kyrie Irving has accomplished a lot in his short time in the NBA. He was the first pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, he won Rookie of the Year, has been an all-star three times, was the all-star game MVP in 2014, and won the 3-point contest the previous year. He’s seemingly done everything you could ask of him, but what Irving hadn’t shown was that killer instinct that separates the elite point guards from the rest. The cold blooded mentality when it matters that has taken the likes of Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook to superstardom. That is until this year’s NBA Finals.
Throughout the playoffs Kyrie had played well, averaging over 20 points per game in each of the first three series. But that was expected of him; those series were against teams they were supposed to beat and he had favorable matchups in all of them. It wasn’t until the NBA Finals against Steph Curry and company, that Kyrie Irving would get a chance to show the basketball world what he is truly made of.
*Photo via Getty Images
The first two games of the series saw the Cavaliers get beaten handily by the Warriors and it seemed like the stage was too big for Kyrie Irving as he struggled mightily, shooting an ugly 33 percent from the field and averaging just 18 points per game. His shots weren’t falling, his defense was subpar and he just seemed nonexistent going into the next game. But like the after effects of a high screen from the Warriors, something switched. It all started just two minutes into Game 3 when Kyrie guided Steph Curry towards the three point line, only to make a hard cut to the basket, getting the dish from Lebron and scoring an easy two points. The move left Curry frozen and was the start of a series full of memorable moments and highlights. Irving made ankle breaking moves throughout every game and routinely put Warriors defenders on skates. In each remaining game there was a highlight that will live in Cavalier lore forever. I already mentioned the move he put on Curry in Game 3, in which he also went off for 16 in the first quarter. In Game 4 Irving danced all over Curry and Thompson on multiple possessions, leaving them sprinting to get a hand back in his face. Though the Cavs lost this game, Irving was again unstoppable on offense. Then there was Game 5. The Cavaliers were facing sure defeat, down 3 to 1; a deficit no team had ever come back from in NBA history and Kyrie came out and lit Quicken Loans Arena up. He finished with 41 points and shot 70% from the field. The only other player to put up those numbers in a finals game is Wilt Chamberlain. He dazzled throughout the entire game and it seemed like he couldn’t miss if he tried. With elimination staring him in the face he shone as bright as he ever has. Game 6 the Cavaliers led from start to finish, controlling the entire game. Irving was a huge factor scoring 23 points and helping frustrate Curry to the point of him fouling out and getting ejected from the game. This forced a Game 7 that every basketball fan was frothing at the mouth for.
The game was magnificent as the two teams traded leads throughout the entire game. The biggest lead was seven points by the Warriors at the half and the Cavaliers needed to have a big third quarter to stay in the game. Insert Kyrie Irving. He scored 12 points in the quarter and all of his points came on deep 3’s and ridiculous touch shots that were reminiscent of another point guard in this series. It all came down to the fourth quarter. The Cavs and Warriors traded buckets up until just under five minutes to go in the game and then both teams went cold. Both teams went 0 for 6 from the field during the waning minutes of the game. It was 89 all and it seemed like nobody wanted to be the hero. But after a series full of highlights and signature moments for Irving, he added a highlight for the ages with 53 seconds to go in the game. The play was set for J.R. Smith to make Klay Thompson switch off of Irving and for Steph Curry to be switched on to him. Irving sized up Curry, gave him a hesitation move, took a step back outside the three point line, and released a fade away shot that must have stopped the entire city of Cleveland’s hearts. As if there was any doubt with the way he was playing in the series, he splashed it through the net and after a couple of stops this proved to be the series clinching shot. It will go down as one of the most clutch shots in NBA history.
Going into the series the main talking point was “Stephen Curry vs. LeBron James 2” but this sequel had a new cast member and his name was Kyrie Irving. The entire series Kyrie showed the world he is elite and that shot just drove the point home. From the deep 3’s, to the and-one lay ups, to the filthy handles, Kyrie Irving out Curryed, Stephen Curry. LeBron James may have won MVP and deservedly so, but if Kyrie would have won it, I doubt anybody would have argued. During the regular season he averaged 19 points per game, in the playoffs before the finals he notched 23 per game, and in the Finals, for all the marbles, Irving put up a gaudy 27 points per game and kicked down the door into superstardom.