Irving’s Message Often Lost in Translation


It’s become the norm to bash, make memes out of, and outright disrespect Kyrie Irving. This was before he did what many around the Association refer to as a heinous act—being human. How dare you make over $34 million annually and suggest that you need a mental break from it all? The nerve of Kyrie to be one of the most recognizable figures in all of sports and take a hiatus in the infancy stages of an NBA season. The gall of Kyrie to do more than shut up and dribble. 

Those are just a few of the out-of-bounds takes directed at the 28-year-old superstar over the last couple of weeks. Do I know the particulars as to why Irving took a mental-health break? Am I aware of where his head is at or has been in the last couple of weeks? Do I think something as unprecedented in sports as this is something to write off as Kyrie just thinking he’s above the world? No, no and no. 

The Message Conveniently Lost in Translation 

There have been many think pieces by reporters with limited knowledge of what is going on in Kyrie’s life or between his ears. Kyrie is intentional about keeping the media at an arm’s length. For that reason among others, reporters have been shameless in their coverage of the Brooklyn star. The obvious ax they have to grind with him begs the question, for how long will petty, click-bait, and unsubstantiated reports outweigh actual reporting? 

Now, Kyrie deserves some fault here. Undoubtedly. It didn’t come as soon as people may have wanted, but he took full accountability during his press conference last week for his lack of communication surrounding his hiatus. 

Primadonna or Social Justice Advocate

“It’s hard to ignore… There are so many oppressed communities, so many things going on that are bigger than just a ball going in a rim.” I believe here lies the disconnect. Many media juggernauts won’t say it, but they don’t want him as the champion for mental health if it comes at the expense of his basketball genius. They simply want Kyrie to shut up and dribble. And although Irving may personify art on the hardwood, he is a man of deep interests far beyond Spalding.


In the same press conference referenced earlier, Irving states,

“If you don’t create that distinction, then it’s easy to feel the weight of the world while you’re going out there and playing. So, I’d be lying sitting here and saying I don’t feel what’s going on in the world, nor am I paying attention to it. I just have a huge responsibility, I feel, to continue to serve my community and the underserved. And when I’m out here playing, it’s continuing to leave knowledge with these guys and commit to something, like I always say, bigger than ourselves… When things become overwhelming in life, you’ve just got to take a step back and realize what’s important.” 

Just For A Second, Be Honest And Real

So I ask you, has there never been a time when life felt overwhelming? Was there never a moment where you needed to step back to gain perspective on what matters?

Sure, they’re rhetorical questions, but there are too many people who think those questions shouldn’t exist for celebrities. In the case of Irving, a man who has committed himself to numerous acts of social justice, he deserves more benefit of the doubt than most members of the media are granting him. Kyrie being a prominent figure in the sports world should not change the fact that he was a human before he picked up a basketball and that he will be one when he puts it down. The same very way he is one right now. 

All They Want Is For Him To Shut Up And Dribble

Additionally, Irving did not apologize for being human or needing time to get back to feeling like himself. He expressed regrets for how he communicated his absence. However, he had 10 toes down as it relates to his decision. Quite brave of him—challenging the status quo parading around ignoring mental health until it eats you whole. You would think as relatable as the topic is, he would be celebrated rather than denigrated by anyone with a microphone. Immediately following his press conference, Stephen A. Smith who is as renowned as any other figure in sports media had this to say—

This was a week before Stephen A. emphatically declared that Kyrie should retire. He must still rightfully be displeased with Irving suggesting that media members are pawns. I guess that gives him the right to all but say Kyrie just needs to shut up and dribble. 

Shouldn’t We All Be Mental Health Advocates?

Everyone champions the importance of mental health until it’s time for someone to advocate for themselves. In Kyrie’s case, he shouldn’t worry about his mental because there is a ball that needs to be dribbled. This outdated belief is as incredulous as it is ridiculous. So while many shrivel in disgust with Kyrie’s audacity to be rich, famous and human, I applaud him.

Posted under his picture on one of his Instagram posts late Tuesday was “I am human. No different than you. I am healing.” Sometimes captions are just that, but this gives just a slither of an opening as to what Kyrie may be feeling—that the world and its challenges have a lasting impact on him, the same way it does you or me.

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