So, I’m going to tell you something, and it’s probably something I shouldn’t really say as an ardent Celtics fan and it’s unlikely to be a popular opinion on what is a Celtics fan site, but Kyrie Irving kind of infuriates me. To be clear: this has nothing to do with the Celtics being on a bit of skid recently. I’m very confident they’ll recover and push for post-season glory and there’s no question Kyrie will deservedly be a big part of that. But the stuff he says, the causes he gets behind, his flippant (dare I say cavalier?) dismissal of outright facts, truthfully it’s just not the type of thing I tend to admire in a person.
As much as I try to remind myself that it’s fine, that it doesn’t matter, that he’s a basketball player – one of the best of his generation leading my own beloved Boston Celtics to the top spot in the East and a likely if not destined Eastern Conference showdown and possible Finals glory beyond – it still bugs me.
But recently, while watching Kyrie work, I had a revelation of sorts. Kyrie isn’t just one of the best basketball players of his generation. He is someone so painfully aware of his own skills that he’s not content simply being one of the best players out there. He wants to become something else. He wants to challenge conventions and change the game. The way Kyrie plays—trying to do things that haven’t been done before, making impossible to make shots, the effortless way he works his way around the parquet, his whole stylistic approach to the game—Kyrie’s not just an athlete. He’s an artist.
So, yeah, Kyrie can be pretty crazy. This is as much a fact as the spherical nature of the earth. But you know who else was crazy? Leonard Da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali – and even Galileo was considered pretty off-kilter in his time.
Artists and other people of vision tend to see the world a little differently. In fact it’s this very ability to see the world through a different lens that is generally their most valuable asset as artists.
Kyrie Irving sees the world differently, that much is clear. But as an athlete, the demands on him from society, and perhaps specifically the media, are to tow a certain line and act a certain way. The world doesn’t want their athletes to be rock stars; we want them to be professionals.
But some athletes—a very special few—share the ability of artists to see the world and the game they play through an entirely different lens to everyone else. For those people, as it is for artists, the objective reality of our world has to remain questionable, this is how they can see the unseen and show truths that were hidden to everyone else.
The result of this dedication is that sometimes the most committed among us appear as if they have completely lost their minds. Part of the reason for this is because artists, true artists, have to remain so dedicated to their craft that the world around them pales in significance and importance to their constructed, artistic reality. Because to these people the only thing that matters is their art.
Kyrie Irving is an artist, the court is his canvas. On his parquet drawing board, he creates works of inspiration and genius. The way he plays the game is like nobody else. He is able to see passes where they simply shouldn’t exist and create shots in no-win scenarios.
As an artist and an athlete he is always toying with new ways to do what he does, dynamic interpretations of well-worn styles of play upending existing paradigms that have been left unquestioned for far too long. He has long since moved past trying to play the game – he now seeks to master it.
Watching Kyrie on the court we see a man who is completely in his element, a man possessed by his craft and attuned to its movements and internal intricacies like a great composer or a dedicated dancer. When he finds his form and channels his inner muse he can not only completely take over a game he can take it over with such style that he leaves his opponents and teammates able to do little more than watch him work.
Insanity is not a precursor to artistry, in fact that can be quite a dangerous illusion to propagate. But it is easy for people who see the world differently, who dedicate themselves to their passions and lose themselves in the process, to sometimes be seen as crazy, when really the craziest thing about them is how crazy talented and dedicated they truly are.
Ultimately maybe Kyrie himself said it best when he so poignantly noted that “comparison is a thief of joy.” Maybe we can live in a world where Kyrie is an artist and an athlete.
So while Kyrie can be pretty crazy – something that has been documented ad nauseam by many who seek solace in the shortcomings of others – he is also one of the most gifted basketball players of his generation and a talented and thoughtful individual who seeks to constantly make himself and the world around him a better place.
Sure, Kyrie can seem crazy but that’s because he’s so possessed by his passion that he sometimes seems like a madman. The truth is (and isn’t art meant to be all about the truth?) Kyrie is more than just a player, more than just an athlete. He’s an artist, just watch him work.