Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving was already an NBA All-Star and established talent not only on the team, but throughout both the Eastern Conference and entire league before the return of small forward LeBron James to his hometown team three years ago.
But even the best and brightest can learn from veterans who have come before them, which is exactly what Irving has done since James made his return and helped turn a non-playoff team into a championship contender.
“Oh, man, it’s awesome,” Irving said. “Playing with LeBron is awesome. You learn so much, just how to be a consummate professional, how to really be engaged every, single day. When you have great mentors around the league, it makes it much more special.
“The competition in basketball and all the great players you get to play against is an added bonus. You get to go out and play the game you love, leave it all on the floor. There’s got to be a winner. There’s got to be a loser. Obviously, you want to be on the winning side, but you just go out and have fun.”
Now a veteran of four All-Star games, Irving has scored 79 points, handed out 37 assists and corralled 21 rebounds while representing the Eastern Conference. The MVP of the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, Irving has converted 32 of his 49 looks at the basket (65.3 percent) with 14 three-pointers while competing against the league’s best.
Fully healthy entering the season, Irving averaged 24.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 35.2 minutes of play over his first 49 games of the year.
And Irving’s productivity level comes on the heels of the most memorable moments in Cavaliers history last summer.
Irving missed all but one game in the 2015 NBA Finals because of a fractured kneecap, but he more than made up for it just one year later.
With only 53 seconds to play in regulation and the score tied in Game 7, Irving hit the eventual game-winning three-pointer, a fall-away pull-up attempt from the right wing that was heavily defended by two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry. Irving’s 25-foot triple led to a 93-89 win over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.
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Article Courtesy of WKYC Channel 3 News Cleveland
Picture Courtesy of Kevin Mazur and Getty Images