Boston, MA– On Tuesday, Deadspin published an article by Chris Thompson entitled, "Is Kyrie Irving A Fraud? An Investigation." Thompson essentially lays out the argument that Kyrie was a hapless NBA player before joining forces with LeBron James and that the Boston Celtics are better off when Kyrie is not on the court and they would be better off building around younger players like Jaylen Brown rather than focusing on Kyrie. He concludes with the idea that Irving is aiming to take his talents to the Big Apple during the off-season to play for the New York Knicks and join a crew that would likely be headlined by Kevin Durant. Thompson makes some sound points in the article, but ultimately, I think the argument is largely reductive.
For one, yes, I will concede that I do not believe that Kyrie Irving is an effective leader of a basketball team and I think he also recognizes this. One of the most talented players in the league and the best basketball player on the Celtics, it would be logical to assume that Kyrie would take on the role of the team's leader. However, this was not the case. Sometimes, the best individual player is not the best choice to be the team's leader. By apologizing to LeBron for past behavior and routinely calling out the rest of his team, I think it has become clear that Kyrie is just not a leader. He is better suited to being the best player on a team, rather than its captain.
This in no way makes him a fraud. He is a generational talent and, when healthy, is one of the ten best players in the league. His game really matters in the current landscape of the NBA. He has some of the best ball-handling abilities and skills to carry a team on his back on the court in the entire league. To write him off completely is a major mistake.
With the way the league is laid out now, it is hard to foresee a path for a team to win a championship without one of the best players on their roster. To defeat the Golden State Warriors, you need a star. You need someone who can change the game. The Celtics might be statistically better when Kyrie sits, but they are not legitimate contenders without him. They need to surround him with solid veterans and proven leaders, and Brad Stevens needs to make sure he gets the best out of his players who accompany Kyrie on the court. Hopefully, he'll stick around in Boston.
Photo By Erik Drost - Kyrie Irving, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63505322