It’s easy to want to pooh-pooh Kyrie Irving.
After all, he’s the guy who made news when he said the Earth was flat — and was serious about it.
He was also the same guy who said, “the hoopla about Christmas. I don’t really get into that. I don’t really necessarily think of Christmas as a holiday.”
Irving also demanded a trade away from LeBron James in Cleveland after winning a title with him.
So we get it. Irving hasn’t always made complete sense or been an ideal messenger.
Enter some NBA players not wanting to finish the season in light of all the protesting and social unrest.
Irving, the star guard for the Brooklyn Nets, is clear. He doesn’t buy into resuming the season in late July in the Orlando bubble. Irving is concerned that the NBA playoffs will serve as a distraction from the movement that has started in this country after the world watched in horror the murder of George Floyd by a white cop in Minneapolis.
Here, Irving has a point. It’s both valid and important when you consider where we are in the world.
On the grand scale, the basketball season doesn’t mean much. This time, this moment could finally change the country and its treatment of black and brown people for the better. Those that want to cease this opportunity aren’t wrong.
“I don’t support going into Orlando,” said Irving on a conference call with around 80 players, reportedly. “I’m not with the systematic racism and bull——. Something smells a little fishy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as Black men every day we wake up.”
Irving is so serious about this point in American history that he reportedly told his fellow NBA brothers that he was “willing to give up everything I have” for social reform.
He isn’t alone. Lakers center Dwight Howard, who has a legit shot as his first title in his career, offered his support in a statement to CNN.
“I agree with Kyrie. Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only serve as a distraction. Sure it might not distract us the players, but we have resources on hand [a] majority of our community don’t have. And the smallest distraction for them can start a trickle-down effect that may never stop.”
Howard added it was so important to him that “the unity of my people would be an even bigger Championship” than actually winning his first NBA title.
Portland’s Carmelo Anthony and the Lakers’ Avery Bradley have also publicly supported Irving.
Former NBA player Stephen Jackson is another person on the same page with Irving.
“I love the NBA, man,” he said in an Instagram video post. “Now ain’t the time to be playing basketball, y’all.
“Playing basketball is going to do one thing: take all the attention away from the task at hand right now and what we’re fighting for.”
Jackson’s support is significant and has some weight. Since retiring and becoming an NBA analyst on TV, Jackson has become a voice around the league. He’s honest, loud, and 100 percent real. Jackson — who was friends with Floyd, called him “twin” because they looked so much alike — has been on the frontlines of the protests.
As the movement and the rage continues in America, more than two weeks after Floyd was killed, the NBA’s plan to return next month appears to have hit a real speed bump.
Some other players have pushed back on Irving’s stance because he is currently injured and wouldn’t even be playing. But Irving was voted Vice President of the players’ union. He’s simply doing his job.
Those in the hidden agenda, conspiracy camp, please. You can’t look at what’s going on in the streets and all over this country and believe Irving is using this situation so he can block James from winning a championship.
There’s no doubt James wants to finish the season. Before the pandemic hit, the Lakers were rolling and had the best record in the Western Conference. They definitely had a chance to win a title for LeBron in LA.
However, this is bigger than that.
And for those who just don’t get Irving, remember one thing. He has always been a conscious brother, concerned about his fellow man. Hence, his stance here is as consistent and graceful as him finishing at the rim.