What’s the cost of being Kyrie Irving?
Some players make the game seem effortless. Kyrie makes the game seem impossible. The way he maneuvers through defenses and by defenders seems like an unattainable ability. He’s referred to himself as an artist, and only a fool would debate that. He’s James Baldwin with a crossover. He’s Jimi Hendrix with a jumper. He’s Basquiat finishing at the bucket.
He’s a basketball savant and his abilities are any and everything but normal. How many hours doing ball-handling drills does it take until the ball becomes an extension of you? How many days do you have to spend in the gym doing shooting drills to have the confidence to deliver under the most extreme circumstances?
Truth is, I’ll never know. I could have every single physical attribute Kyrie has and I’d probably still be doing the exact same thing I’m doing now, writing about the sport instead of playing it. Because it’s not just about ability, it’s about the tireless hours devoted to the work — the dedication — and I’ve never dedicated myself to anything the way he has dedicated himself to his craft. Most of us never will. What does it cost to be Kyrie? Everything?
Which brings us to the most important question: What would it take for you to take a step back from something you’ve given everything to?
The actual answer to that question is none of our business. Our responsibility lies in how we treat this situation and understanding the context. Kyrie has missed Brooklyn’s last five games and could reportedly play on Saturday. The Nets are potentially one of the best, most-exciting teams in the league, and at the beginning of what some think could be a championship year, their most exciting player wants to take a break from the game. He spoke with his teammates about it, and they support him. When speaking with recently traded center Jarrett Allen, he stated that he understood and Kyrie could take as much time as he needed. So why are people so bothered by his absence?
He was once told that because he’s being paid millions he’s considered someone’s property, which most of us think at minimum is gross. It’s been suggested that he retire because of his deprioritization of the game. And I don’t necessarily disagree with the idea, but I do disagree with the reasoning.
Being a professional athlete is hard. It’s one of the most rewarding and well-paying jobs on the planet, but it’s also one of the most challenging. We watch players on our television screens and marvel at their abilities, forgetting they’re human beings who struggle at times. Kyrie’s obviously struggling with something. So if Kyrie needs to retire, he needs to do that for Kyrie. Everyone loves success stories about people who persevere, fighting through difficult times. We lauded Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan after they were open about their personal battles. We have no idea why Kyrie’s taking a break, but why can’t we express that same sympathy during these battles instead of after?
What does it cost to be Kyrie Irving? Only Kyrie knows. But I understand if maybe at times, to Kyrie, the cost feels like it’s too much.
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