While the balance of stars in the National Basketball Association (NBA) often band together to form super teams, one standout has boldly taken his own path in a bid to carve out a singular identity.
Point guard Kyrie Irving did not just depart the Cleveland Cavaliers and team mate LeBron James, the game’s best player, he demanded it by forcing a trade to the Boston Celtics.
Casting aside three straight trips to the NBA Finals with the Cavaliers and the prominent position in the Eastern Conference, the 25-year-old Irving decided he wanted to succeed or fail on his terms.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that one of the league’s premier one-on-one players, prone to passing up a driving lane in favor of a fall away jump shot, would eagerly choose a career path of most resistance.
“There comes a time when you mature as an individual and you make that decision,” Irving said of his departure from Cleveland. “(I just want to) come in and perfect my craft every single day, and be in an environment where I can be taught every single day, so I can exceed my potential and see how far I can go.”
Irving’s explanation for wanting to leave sounded practical enough, but was received another way by the public, which assumed Irving wanted away from LeBron.
The Cavaliers drafted Irving to be their franchise player in 2011 but those plans were hijacked when James returned home to Cleveland prior to the 2014-15 season.
The duo succeeded as Irving averaged 22.1 points over three seasons with LeBron, and made the signature shot of their 2016 NBA title.
But the wins and losses revolved around LeBron, and Irving was relegated to an understudy role
“I tried to do whatever I could do to help the kid out, be the best player he could be,” James told reporters last month. “I tried to give him everything and give him as much of the DNA as I could. Because, like I told you guys throughout the season, at some point, when he was ready to take over the keys, I was ready to give them to him.”
Irving was not willing to wait for the keys. Now he joins a revamped Boston group that also added All Star Gordon Hayward and hopes to knock the Cavs off the conference perch.
Unlike the Oklahoma City Thunder, with Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, or the Houston Rockets (James Harden and
Chris Paul) Boston’s star combination materialized more by exodus than merger.
Like his idol and friend Kobe Bryant, who earned even more acclaim after Shaquille O’Neal left the Lakers, Irving wants to test the limits of his talents. The basketball world eagerly awaits the results.