Credit the plane ride. Maybe it was the 3-1 road trip. Maybe it was the west coast weather. Whatever it was, this is a different Kyrie Irving. In a sit down with Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, Irving opened up about his confrontations with the media, how they have affected his relationship with the team, and how he intends to learn from this season and move on:
“The way I’ve handled things, it hasn’t been perfect,” Irving told Yahoo Sports as he rested his feet in a bucket of ice at his locker stall. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes that I take full responsibility for. I apologize. I haven’t done it perfectly. I haven’t said the right things all the time. I don’t want to sit on a place like I’m on a pedestal from anybody. I’m a normal human being that makes mistakes. For me, I think because of how fixated I was on trying to prove other people wrong, I got into a lot of habits that were bad, like reading stuff and reacting emotionally. That’s just not who I am.”
For full context, read the entire piece. It’s an admirable admission from the 26-year-old star about the mistakes he’s made lashing out at the mainstream media and letting it fester in social media.
However, for what it’s worth, I do admire his steadfast criticism in how the game is covered and how he sees himself responsible for shaping it for future generations. “It’s for the players that are coming behind me who will be in this league and setting an example for them on how to handle things and how to evolve within your career,” Irving said.
Over the last few weeks, he’s taken flak for being a petulant, hypocritical superstar that gets paid too much to be this grumpy and irritable. But if you’ve been following Kyrie closely this season, he’s been laser focused on 1) winning a championship with this team, 2) being a leader in the locker room, and 3) fulfilling what he sees is his destiny. He’s had varied success in those arenas and ultimately, the Celtics’ post-season will determine how far he’s really come, but for those critical about his approach, you can’t fault him for not trying.
So much of the coverage of Kyrie has been innuendo and reading between the lines. Whenever he’s attempted to be sincere--whether it was his very public statement in October that he plans on re-signing in Boston or the Nike commercial where he doubled down on that promise or the Athletic’s Joe Vardon’s piece about his relationship with LeBron James or this interview with Chris Haynes--it’s been overshadowed by an authorized narrative written by talking heads and Twitter.
Time and time again, I’ve urged readers to take Kyrie at his word. He is the rare athlete that’s thoughtful in his answers and honest in his approach. There are times when we don’t want to hear what he’s saying, but too often, we shoot the messenger.