Comparing the KD and Kyrie Situations
Kyrie Irving has broken the Internet. Well, if not that then at least Twitter. Check out some of these absolute gems:
And my personal favorites, some creations by my very own brother.
The last time we saw a decision this polarizing, it was a mere twelve months ago when Kevin Durant decided to leave Oklahoma City. Durant’s decision itself wasn’t the shocking part, more so the team he chose to join. With Irving the surprise lies within the decision to actually leave. When was the last time we saw a player want to leave a perennial NBA Finalist? The obvious one is Shaquille O’Neal leaving Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, but for those with any sense of basketball knowledge know that those circumstances were vastly different. There are, however, some similarities (and differences) in Kyrie’s desire to move to that of KD’s. The devil is in the detail.
Why They Left/Wanted To Leave
The Slim Reaper (yes, we’re bringing that nickname back as much as KD hates it because to be fair The Servant was a pretty horrific substitute) left a team that was on the precipice of greatness. They were three games away from beating Miami’s Big 3 in 2012. Had James Harden not left the team the following year the past five years in the league would’ve played very differently. He did though, and Durant left Russell Westbrook a few years later to join the dynasty-bound Golden State Warriors. He left to win a championship; he needed that validation. His NBA resume is incomplete without one. It’s not right that we NBA pundits feel a player isn’t truly great until he wins a ring. Don’t tell me that Tony Parker is greater than Steve Nash purely because he has a fancy piece of jewelry. Anyway, that’s a conversation for another day.
You could certainly say the underlying reasons behind why Durant left (to win a ring and grow as a player and man) were vindicated.
Achieving the ultimate glory in the sport isn’t part of Irving’s reasoning (as far as reports go). He wants to leave to establish his independence as a bona fide superstar outside of the LeBron James/Cleveland bubble. He’s got the ring to his name; in fact I doubt he’d be striving to leave so badly had he not won with the Cavs? Kyrie’s decision goes beyond basketball. A lot has been made of his perspective on life in general. Check this video of Kyrie wanting to create his own self-sustaining community.
Many will laugh at his ideas but he’s a unique thinker and the world needs more people like that (except when it comes to the science of the Earth). Jefferson spoke of his intelligence on his podcast:
"I think Kyrie is a hyper-intelligent kid. Really, really smart. Doesn't get enough credit for how smart he is”.
I’ll trust those close to Kyrie more than so-called NBA ‘sources’.
“I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man.” No that’s not a quote from Uncle Drew, it was the Slim Reaper. The two superstars certainly share similarities on that front. Not every player wants to win as much as MJ and Lebron, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
How They Left/May Leave
Durant was an unrestricted free agent when he made his decision to leave the team that groomed him. Irving is still under contract for three* more seasons before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2020. You could make the argument Durant’s loyalty is greater than Kyrie’s despite what many think.
Durant had no obligation to the Thunder. He had every right to explore his options. Kyrie on the other hand is a contracted Cavaliers player. In comparison, we haven’t been hearing the outcry for his decision like KD’s; and just imagine the reaction from Cavs’ fans if James chooses to opt out next year. Rightly or wrongly, some players are just held to different standards.
Where They Went/Where They Want To Go
This is where the differences between the two players’ choices really come to light. We all know the team Durant joined (mind you, they still blew a 3-1 lead in 2016 #staywoke) but Kyrie’s list of teams is quite varied. There’s the standard Spurs choice #PopKerr2020, Pat Riley and the 305 Crew, for some reason the Knicks and of course his pal Jimmy and the Timberwolves.
Seriously one of the best videos on the Internet
The similarity in wanting to leave to evolve themselves as men beyond basketball is striking. The environment the two have chosen to do that in is markedly different.
What Team They Left/Want To Leave
Both of these players’ teams’ are/were great. Not historically great but still good enough to make a 2nd seed in the East and 3rd in the West. In 2015-16 the Thunder finished with a 55-27 regular season record before losing a nail-biting series to the Warriors. The Cavs finished with a 51-31 record and ended up going down to Durant’s Warriors in five games. Both teams could’ve won a title had a few more things gone their way. If the Splash Brothers hadn’t gone bonkers from three OKC could’ve stolen a title from LeBron and the Cavs. For the record, in that series Klay shot a higher percentage from three (41.7) than from two-point range (41.6).
Consequently, if Durant hadn’t chosen to join one of the best teams in the game’s history the Cavs may have gone back to back. It’s useless to play the ‘what if?’ game, though in this scenario it provides useful context for the two player’s decisions.
Who They Left/Want To Leave
Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. Those are the two key players in KD and Kyrie’s sagas. Westbrook and Durant had a strong if not strained relationship and the same could be said of LeBron and Kyrie. While LeBron isn’t as brash as Russ, both are dominating personalities on and off the court. LeBron tends to bring out the best of those around him. Kyrie’s game has skyrocketed in all key areas; you only have to take a quick look on Basketball Reference and NBA Stats to see the proof. Westbrook on the other hand has thrived in the absence of Durant on a personal front, and KD has done the same in a system where he isn’t asked to play consistent ISO ball. If Kyrie were to leave for a team like the Knicks or Suns you’re likely to see a one-man highlight reel throughout the season, remind you of anyone?
We’re all clamouring over any tidbit of news relating to Kyrie’s situation. The man we’ve compared his decision to isn’t really fazed:
“I really don’t care about the Kyrie Irving situation. I just want guys in the league to be happy where they’re playing and have some fun playing ball. So, wherever that is, for Kyrie, I hope he finds that.”
Amen to that Slim.