Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Kyrie Irving's Future Up In The Air

Super-stardom in the NBA comes at a cost; a life-long dedication to basketball, a passion and thirst for success, a grueling physical career and days, weeks and months of time away from loved ones.  Super-stardom is one thing; being a champion and wearing that elusive golden ring on your finger, is another. The predecessors of the league’s current generation left behind a wealthy legacy of talent, showmanship and the pre-set for the difference between a professional basketball player and a ‘superstar’. Players such as Elgin Baylor, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller paved the way for today’s player and left behind legacy’s noteworthy of inspiration. However, it may surprise you to learn that none of the aforementioned players ever won an NBA championship; let that sink in for a moment.

Have you picked your jaw up? Of the twenty-one top scorers in the history in the NBA, nine left the hardwood without winning a finals series. Granted, if you are reading this and you watched the odd Bulls game in the nineties or you knew of ‘Show-Time’ in Los Angeles, you may have never even heard of Karl Malone or Elgin Baylor. You would know Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Scottie Pippen, a group of names who ooze supremacy, talent, and a collection of championship rings. But if you are a die-hard NBA fan, you watch every single-game, call in sick to work for All-Star weekend and wear your favorite player’s jersey proudly, you may be surprised to know of the elite superstars in the past who have gone ring-less.

Now set your mind to today’s NBA roster. Think ‘superstars’. Who do we have? Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, and Kyrie Irving (and I’m leaving a lot out). You see their faces on billboards and television commercials, your kids ask for their jerseys on their birthdays, you hear their names spoken of as if they were royalty, but only two of those mentioned superstars walk onto that court each day. Two! And those two are in constant G.O.A.T talks alongside ‘his airness’. But what about Melo and what was supposed to be a stacked Knicks roster? What about Blake Griffin and Chris Paul who combine together in LOB city to form the most visually entertaining duo in the NBA? There’s also Dwight Howard, probably the most ‘talked-about’ and drama engulfed superstar in that list, who partners up with James Harden and Chandler Parsons in Houston in a very talented and dangerous Rockets outfit. And then there’s Mr Irving.

Who remembers when Lebron wasn’t ‘The King’? You see, you could count on one hand the amount of years ago that Lebron’s career was nothing but lacklustre without those two rings he wears proudly today. Don’t get me wrong, my God, he was incredible. Each night, he would lead his Cavaliers team, one that was hardly anything to write home about, onto the hardwood and would make the greatest of great look foolish. He would put up amazing numbers each night, his trade-worth was astounding, his jersey sales were amongst the top five and he was one of the league’s top superstars. But he wasn’t truly the King; not until he won that championship. And unless Kyrie Irving follows suit, leaves Cleveland like ‘Bron and signs on to another team, he is going to remain in the championship-less list of superstars.

Irving, just a matter of weeks ago, outshone James, Anthony and Durant in the All-Star game and took home the All Star MVP award. This year, he is averaging over twenty-one points a game, alongside six assists. He is talked about as one of the league’s best point-guards and his trade-worth is now also astounding. But he is all alone in Cleveland. Yeah, ok, so he’s got Anthony Bennett, Dion Waiters and a recently added Luol Deng.  But with a 16-31 record, the Cavaliers aren’t even remotely considered championship contenders. An elite point-guard like Irving just needs a stronger army to go to war with. So what exactly are his options?

It is highly expected, if not guaranteed, that the Cavaliers camp plans to offer Irving a max contract extension this summer. Even if he doesn’t sign the contract, he will enter the 2015 free agency as a restricted free-agent and Cleveland can match any offer, forcing him to play through another year in Cleveland (on a quick side-note, this would mean Kyrie would not be able to join free-agency hotspot Los Angeles in-time to join the Black Mamba before he retires).

A look into Kyrie Irving’s future leaves two options and two options only. Should Irving remain happy in Cleveland he signs the extension, the Cavaliers try to add some talent in the lucrative free agency this summer and Irving quite literally, works with what he’s got. However, if Irving wants out and is prepared to endure the James-like firestorm and send Dan Gilbert into early retirement, he needs to decline the extension offer this summer and give himself as much leverage with the organization as possible.

Again, let’s not forget, the Cavaliers can match any offer he would be set to accept by any other team, essentially forcing him to stay for another summer. But would the team really want someone who is unhappy and going to leave eventually anyway playing for them when they can secure a calibre of talented players in return for him? Letting Kyrie Irving walk following the offer-match is most certainly not on the agenda; the Cavaliers know they need something in return. But don’t doubt for a second, they won’t throw any amount of money they can his way before it gets to that point.

Irving has remained sound on his plans past this summer. He seems content in Cleveland, but that will only get someone with a championship mentality so far. He wants a ring. You can see it every time he steps on the court and you can feel it when he plays. Whether it’s in Cleveland or somewhere else (that’s a whole other article), Irving needs a ring to secure his place. He’s young and he’s got the time. The ball is in his court (pun-intended); get out or stay.  Kyrie Irving’s future depends on the decision.

Thank you for reading. Please take a moment to follow me on Twitter – @KaineElmy.  Support LWOS by following us on Twitter  – @LastWordOnSport – and “liking” our Facebook page.

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Main Photo Credit: Erik Daniel Drost via photopin cc


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