Brooklyn Nets’ point guard Kyrie Irving is one of the most unique players the NBA has ever seen. On the court, he’s a superstar and off the court, he’s an enigma.
To sum up Irving’s personality, Irving has never tried to be anybody but himself. This has rubbed many people the wrong way, especially the media.
On Jan. 12, Irving was fined $50,000 for violating NBA health and safety protocols after he was seen at a large gathering without a mask. This is just the latest chapter in a long saga of Irving having to deal with bad coverage from the NBA media.
Several media members have been very critical of Irving and the way he’s conducted himself, including ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith who doesn’t think Irving’s antics are worth the headache.
“No, he’s not. He’s not worth it at all. As a matter of fact, I think Kyrie Irving should retire. Clearly, you don’t want to play basketball bad enough,” said Smith on Jan. 13 during ESPN’s morning show First Take.
Smith hasn’t been very fond of Irving during the 2020-2021 season, and it’s not without reason. Before the season began, Irving announced he would no longer be speaking to the NBA media during practices or after games.
Smith took exception to this and made it very clear how he felt about Irving’s choice.
“He doesn’t want to talk to the media? Fine. We won’t miss him. But here’s the reality: he should be fined every damn day he doesn’t talk,” said Smith on Dec. 8 on First Take.
Irving posted a cryptic message on his Instagram on Dec. 11 that read “I do not talk to pawns. My attention is worth more.”
Irving’s post was a clear reference to him announcing his plans not to speak the media.
On Dec. 14, Irving broke his silence and spoke at his scheduled press conference.
Even before the start of the season, Irving continued to make headlines whenever he spoke his mind. Irving had a problem with the NBA restarting in Orlando during the 2020 summer and he let everyone know about it.
During the NBA restart, America was responding to the deaths of George Floyd and Jacob Blake. Irving had his mind on things outside of basketball.
“I’m willing to give up everything I have for social reform. I don’t support going into Orlando. I’m not with the systematic racism. Something smells a little fishy,” said Irving on June 12, during a conference call with more than 80 players.
Everything? The money, notoriety and the ability to play basketball for a living?
Maybe Irving isn’t as selfish as certain media members have painted him.
It’s clear Irving has interests outside of basketball. He has often referred to himself as an artist and is constantly posting spiritual content on his Instagram.
For some reason, Irving’s self-expression causes more uproar within the media than any other player. TNT’s Charles Barkley, who played in the NBA from 1984-2000, has had his fair share of issues with today’s players.
Barkley is the typical retired player who brags about the era he played in and has nothing but negative things to say about the present state of his sport. When it comes to Irving, Barkley made his feelings well known.
“He starts talking about what an artist is. He’s a basketball player. That’s what he is. Listen, we’re not…we’re not frontline responders,” said Barkley on Dec. 17 during an ESPN radio show. ” Yo man, you dribble a basketball, stop acting like you’re the smartest person in the world.”
The main factor that’s created this hostility between Irving and the media is stubbornness. Members of the NBA media like Smith and Barkley seem to have their own expectations on how players should behave, and Irving doesn’t go along with that agenda. Someone has to change, and it’s not Irving.
It’s clear Irving isn’t going to change for anyone, especially those who get paid to critique his basketball ability.
“I don’t have to be perfect for anyone here, nor do I have to be perfect for the public. So, I’m not here to dispel any perception. I’m just here to be myself,” said Irving, during an Oct. 31 press conference.
Irving is not a villain, he’s just a unique personality who’s never backed down from speaking his mind. The media has tried to force him to be only a basketball player when he’s clearly much more.
Irving will never change and that isn’t a bad thing.