Moments after hoisting the 2014 NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player award trophy that he won by dishing and swishing to propel the East to a record-setting victory, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving shared a pretty special embrace with the man who put him on the path to such great heights:
Long before Kyrie was serving up the likes of Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard in New Orleans, his father, Drederick Irving, was rewriting the record books at Boston University, starring down under for the Bulleen Boomers of the Australian pro basketball league and pushing his son to become the best. From Jackie MacMullan of ESPN.com:
"In eighth grade," Irving said, "my father told me I would wind up as the best guard in the state of New Jersey. In my senior year of high school, he told me I'd be the number one player in the country. Then, in college, he told me I'd be the number one pick in the draft.
"He laid out all the necessary steps for me. It was up to me what I did with them." [...]
"I thank my father," Irving said. "He did things the old-school way. No shortcuts. Nothing guaranteed."
That "old-school way" meant that sometimes father and son weren't quite so buddy-buddy, as Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News wrote before the Cavs selected Kyrie with the first pick in the 2011 NBA draft:
Forever measuring himself against Drederick, his father, Kyrie, who stands 6-foot-3-1/2, surpassed his dad, a 45-year-old bond analyst at Thomson Reuters, on the court [in 2009]. In a game of one-on-one at a South Orange, N.J. park, he extended a string of made baskets into a 16-0 stretch, elevating over his father or faking, then finishing with duck-under layups. Unable to compete, the father, the former all-time scorer at Boston University and Rucker MVP, flailed futilely, their genetic sequence reversed.
"I would have paid good money to see Dred that day!" says Tyrone Joye, a life-long friend of the father and retired corrections officer with a gap-tooth smile. "Drederick used to be merciless when he was on top. One day after the movie 'He Got Game' came out, I was like, I get it, Kyrie is Jesus and Dred is Jake, the dad riding him all the time."
Beneath the "riding," though, was the love of a parent who needed to be everything for Kyrie after Elizabeth Irving — Drederick's wife, Kyrie's mom — died in September of 1996, when Kyrie was just four years old. More from Armstrong:
Talk of the future triggers memories for the father. Past midnight on Friday, he ascended into his attic above the family bedrooms to sift through old report cards, arts-and-crafts projects and boxes overflowing with honors. In one, he found a piece of paper glued to a manila envelope. It was a Father's Day card, written in pencil, from June of 2002 when his son was in the fourth grade. Wearing his glasses, Drederick read it aloud.
Thanks for taking care of me because I know without you I would not be me. Thanks for teaching me basketball. I have a long way to go. I want to follow you.
I love you and always will.
"If you are fortunate to have a father like I have, you're given a foundation," Irving told MacMullan during their 2012 interview. "You can be content with that, or take it and run with it, like I did. My father is the one who told me to want more. My father is the one who told me not to settle."
Only fitting, then, that Drederick was there after Kyrie earned the highest honor of his young career by doing just that.
- - - - - - -