Kyrie, the intense media scrutiny comes with the game
Yes, it’s his life, but there’s a high price for fame
Late last week, I came into my living room. My wife was watching an NBA game on TV, the Boston Celtics visiting the Golden State Warriors. The Celtics were en route to a 128-95 drubbing of the Warriors.
Meanwhile, a Celtics guard who has questioned whether the Earth is flat (Kyrie Irving) had just been fouled by Warriors guard Steph Curry. The latter once mused about whether the United States had landed people on the moon, then learned the gravity of a superstar making a casual remark.
And I thought of my father’s voice and how I don’t use it with my adult children or anybody else very often these days. I wanted to use that voice, a treasured aural legacy from my father, with Irving.
I know Irving had chafed under what he saw as condescension from then-teammate LeBron James — James used to call Irving “the kid” — while they played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who went to three consecutive NBA Finals and won one NBA title with the pair.
James has fathered a new relationship among elite NBA players and the league. Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans exemplifies that new relationship. He calls himself the CEO of his life and career. He says he has the power to control what happens next. James helped give Davis and others that power.
If James can’t be Irving’s basketball father on the court, I know I can’t offer fatherly advice to Irving off it.
And yet, I want to tell Irving, who turns 27 later this month, that he might do himself a favor by heeding the verbal slap in the face that conservative writer Laura Ingraham sent James’ way: “Shut up and dribble.”
To be sure, Irving, James and all other Americans have the constitutional right to freedom of speech. But Irving’s comments on everything from the shape of the Earth to the contours of his relationship with the sports media, also protected by the Constitution, are inane or counterproductive, at best.
“I didn’t really come into this game to be cameras in my face …,” Irving says. That could be true. But if he wants to be highly compensated for playing NBA basketball, Irving, who could leave the Celtics as a free agent, must be ready for his close-up. Every superstar athlete, from Babe Ruth to Reggie Jackson to Michael Jordan, has known that.
And so does Uncle Drew, the character Irving has created to sell soda in TV commercials and movie tickets for feature films. To my ears, Uncle Drew speaks loudest and best when he dribbles.