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NBA Great Names Mavs Guard ‘Most Skilled’ After Game-Winner

Dallas Mavericks after Kyrie Irving makes game-winner

Dallas Mavericks star guard Kyrie Irving has made a fair share of big-time shots.

Buzzer-beaters. Game-enders. Game-winners. Dagger 3-pointers over Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry in the 2016 NBA Finals. Whenever a team needs Irving to save them, he comes out of the phone booth cape in hand.

Damian Lillard Has Greatest Praise for Kyrie Irving After Game-Winner

On Sunday, as the Mavs faced off against the Denver Nuggets, Irving had what may have been his most improbable moment in the clutch.

Receiving an inbounds pass from Luka Doncic with 2.8 seconds remaining on the clock, Irving attempted to dribble around Nuggets mainspring Nikola Jokic and get to the rim. However, taking a wide route to elude Jokic and his 7-foot-3 wingspan, he was running out of time. With 1.0 second remaining, he was still at the free-throw line.

Irving shot the ball anyway. Releasing a left-handed floater over the outstretched arms of Jokic, the 8-time All-Star nailed his attempt, the ball falling through the hoop cleanly. His teammates —including Doncic —were in disbelief, awe, or both. While they piled on Irving at center court, basketball fans took to social media to proclaim his greatness.

Even Milwaukee Bucks star Damian Lillard had to get in on the conversation, calling his contemporary “the most skilled [player] ever.”

Is Irving the Most Skilled Ever?

In the sports world, it’s not uncommon to use superlatives to drive home a point.

Maybe it’s a matter of fact. Perhaps it’s a hot take or tool for emphasis. At this point, it may just be part of the game’s lexicon. Nonetheless, players are often called the ‘greatest to ever’ do this or the ‘best to ever do that’ by sports pundits. Whether past, present, or future, players even get caught up in viewing themselves or others through a grandiose lens.

However, when Lillard calls Irving the ‘most skilled ever’ just a month after Hall of Fame guard Allen Iverson called Irving the ‘greatest ball-handler ever,’ it’s worth investigating how true that statement is.

In looking at Irving’s game, his craftiness is only matched by his shooting touch. Despite not being an above-average athlete relative to his peers, Irving gets to the rim at will thanks to his exceptional ball-handling ability.

Able to consistently create separation off-the-dribble using a seemingly unlimited number of crossover combinations, it’s almost unfair that Irving has such a deft shooting touch. Whether it’s him finishing at the rim at a wide variety of angles, releasing jumpers multiple bases, or simply dotting an opponent’s eye from beyond the arc, Irving often finishes what he started.

He’s a walking highlight not just because his game is aesthetically pleasing but because it’s highly effective. All of which makes him all the more entertaining.

Kyrie Before Kyrie

As for whether there’s been a more skilled player?

It’s already clear there’s no better ball-handler. When considering his touch from every spot on the floor and the variety within his shot profile, there may not be a better scorer either. Also not to be forgotten is Irving’s growth as a facilitator. Always capable of making every pass there is, he’s now committed to a sometimes undervalued aspect of being a point guard.

Aside from Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, the No. 3 pick in the 1990 NBA Draft, it’s difficult to think of a player with all the skills that Irving possesses though.

Looking at both players, there are several similarities. Like Irving, Abdul-Rauf was an innovator with unparalleled skill on the hardwood. Off the court, Abdul-Rauf was often criticized for his worldview; Irving is no stranger to that.

Still, even Abdul-Rauf didn’t quite have the productivity of Irving. Even averaging 18.0 points and 4.7 assists per game in his prime on .454-.370-.930 shooting splits. Nor did he start or end his career with as much success. That’s also the case for players like Stephon Marbury, Penny Hardaway, and Jamal Crawford.

Giving Him His Flowers

Where Irving ranks all-time remains to be seen.

He was already snubbed from the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team. Nonetheless, when he steps on the court, basketball fans are witnessing one of the greatest shows on earth. Whether they appreciate it or not.


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