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Top NBA Players: #25 Kyrie Irving

Apr 23, 2012; Memphis, TN, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) shoots the ball during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at the FedEx Forum. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE

Kyrie Irving
Resume: 18.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 30.5 minutes, 47% FG, 40% 3PT, and 87% FT… Team record in games played: 17-34 (4-11 without)… 1st Team All-Rookie, Rookie of the Year

Hey, I’m just going to need a minute to take my foot out of my mouth. Can someone give me a hand? Oh crap, none of you are actually near me. Okay, just a second.

Alright, I’m good now. I guess I shouldn’t have been so anti-Kyrie Irving for so long. Well, you live and you learn, and I learned the hard way. I’ve been taking shots at Kyrie for over a year now, starting back in June 2011 when the draft rolled around and I claimed that it made no sense for Cleveland to use the number one pick on a guy who played only 11 games in college and the consensus number 2 pick (Derrick Williams) ripped through Irving’s Duke Blue Devils in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament like he was the Tasmanian Devil. Even once the season was under way I continued to go after Kyrie, calling him “a quarter of a star” in an Eastern Conference power rankings post. Let me make some perfectly clear: Kyrie Irving is a full star. It took me a while to realize this and it has been a little bit of a shock to me, but I’ve finally seen the light. Why does this shock me? Well…

1: He never looked like a sure thing at the college level. Granted, he was dealing with an injured Sgt. Hulka throughout the year and I may have had my Duke blinders on, so I probably brought this on myself. Anthony Davis looks like a sure thing to me. Derrick Rose looked like a sure thing to me. Blake Griffin looked like a sure thing to me. Adam Morrison looked- eh, just forget I said anything.

2: He’s 1 month younger than me. This might not seem like that big of a deal, but for the first time in my life a star player in the NBA was born after I was. That’s sort of depressing in a weird way. I get jacked up to play intramural games once a week… he’s battling the best players in the NBA on a nightly basis and succeeding even more than the biggest Kyrie Irving fan could’ve expected. Nobody could’ve predicted that Kyrie would not just lead all NBA players in clutch stats, but do it by such a wide margin. Per 48 minutes of Clutch Time (4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points) Kyrie Irving averaged a ridiculous 56.4 points per game. The only other player in the league to average more than 50 was Kevin Durant. The third highest was Carmelo Anthony at 43.6 per 48 minutes of Clutch Time. It doesn’t end there though, Irving shot 54% in Clutch Time, better than anyone else in the top 15 in scoring. Add in the mix 67% from three-point range (again, better than anyone in the top 15 in scoring) and 89% at the free throw line, and you already have a resume being built as one of the best late game players in the league.

3: He’s handling this fame and success remarkably well, coming off as a cool, humble and savvy kid. He even starred in Pepsi Max’s Uncle Drew commercial, which would’ve made just about any player in the league look like the coolest dude alive.

4: Let me just state this one more time: Kyrie Irving is one month younger than me and he’s already one of the top 25 players in the NBA. If you didn’t believe that what he did during the season was enough, then all you needed to do was listen to what people (including some of the best players in the world) were saying about him during the Team USA vs. USA Select Team scrimmages over the summer. The word floating around was he was lighting Team USA up, and he was even good enough to challenge Kobe Bryant to a one on one game for $50,000 and not have it seem totally ridiculous.

Let me say it one more time so I can hopefully get the taste of my own foot out of my mouth… Kyrie Irving is a full star, and he will be for a very long time.

sonnygiuliano