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Kyrie Irving admits first three years he wasn’t a leader, “just been a kid trying to figure it out”

Aug 18, 2014, 5:20 PM EDT

Kyrie Irving Kyrie Irving

To ask a rookie to come in and lead, to be the face of an NBA franchise is unfair to anyone. People remember Magic Johnson’s rookie year but that was Kareem Abdul-Jabar’s team until 1984. Michael Jordan took time to learn how to lead. It’s true of everyone.

Including Kyrie Irving. He was asked to do that, as are more and more young top picks. The Cavaliers’ point guard has quickly risen to be one of the top point guards in the NBA in his first three seasons, but on a young team he was just not yet equipped to be a leader.

While with Team USA in Chicago, Irving admitted as much in a conversation with Real GM (hat tip Waiting for Next Year).

“Everybody asks me if this is my year to be a leader … I haven’t been so far though, not at all,” Irving said. “I’ve just been a kid trying to figure it out. There’s no perfect way to be a leader, and coming in as a 19-year-old kid and having everything bearing on your shoulders, there are a lot of ups and downs. Now it’s about being the best every single day and not being afraid.

“I’m more than excited with our new veterans. I’m really excited just from the standpoint of how the locker room is going to go and how to really be a professional. I’m not saying that the veterans that we had weren’t professionals themselves, but we didn’t have enough. Given the right and wrong things to do in the league, I’ve had to learn on my own and that’s what some of us been doing.

“Now, we have guys who’ve been in the league for years, guys who’ve won championships and have had to give a piece of their game for the greater good of the team. It’s something I admire and something I’m going to learn from.”

That’s a mature outlook from Irving. The kind a leader should have.

This is LeBron James‘ team now, and guys such as Mike Miller and Shawn Marion are certainly professionals. Things will be much more clear in that locker room, there will be a pecking order.

But Irving just signed a five-year, $90 million contract extension — he is now by definition one of the leaders. That kind of payday makes that happen. Just now he has some good role models to follow.

  1. ProBasketballPundit - Aug 18, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    Ah, easy fix. Just trade Kyrie Irving for Michael Carter-Williams. I hear he’s ready to step up.

    • balsagna - Aug 18, 2014 at 5:53 PM

      You wish.

    • kenyante - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:00 PM

      I’m glad you’re not the Cavs’ GM.

      • nflcrimerankingscom - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:11 PM

        I’m pretty sure that was sarcasm.

      • 00maltliquor - Aug 18, 2014 at 9:58 PM

        What’s sarcasm?

    • 88heatnation - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:37 PM

      I wouldn’t take the entire sixers for Kyrie

  2. timberwolvesbrisin - Aug 18, 2014 at 5:27 PM

    The sky is blue.

  3. clevelandrox - Aug 18, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    i know it didnt seem like it (well it wasnt cause who couldve foreseen this off-season) 4 years ago when you got drafted, but you landed in the best possible spot in the league and the whole world will bear witness to just how great your career will be starting with this breakout upcoming season…

  4. phinagain - Aug 18, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    Just to clarify, Kyrie, it’s not that “we’ve got guys…” LeBron is there. By definition, LeBron has the guys. You are one of LeBron’s guys. He is the leader. You can be junior vice president.

  5. sportsfan18 - Aug 18, 2014 at 5:50 PM


    Just having a $90 million contract doesn’t make one a leader.

    It’s nice when your better players or best player (he’s not their best player, I’m talking in general) is also the leader of your team… but being the best player doesn’t automatically make one a leader.

    Just like in business, it’s nice if the managers are leaders but they aren’t always. Many times there are folks on the team (basketball or business) who are just a team member but they are more of a leader than the dept manager.

    Ya’ll know there are many middle managers out there in America. Just because they are the manager doesn’t automatically turn them into a leader.

    Having a $90 million contract given to you because you can ball doesn’t change your brain and mind and turn you into a leader.

    Far too many pro athletes THINK that they are the leader because they are the best or highest paid…

    Uh, truly being a leader has nothing to do with being the best or making the most money.

    • antistratfordian - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:56 PM

      You could’ve just posted your last sentence and that would’ve covered everything.

      • sportsfan18 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:09 PM


        and then half the folks on this site wouldn’t have gotten my point…

  6. eventhorizon04 - Aug 18, 2014 at 5:57 PM

    Frankly, not sure his “leadership” will be needed. With Shawn Marion signed, and the Cavs optimistic about getting Ray Allen, only 3 players on the Cavs’ roster who are expected to get very significant playing time will be under 25 years old. Kyrie, Thompson, Waiters, that’s it.

    Everybody else, such as LeBron, Love, Varejao, Miller, Allen, Marion, and Haywood won’t exactly need Irving to tell them how to play. Half of those guys are 34 years old or older.

    • eventhorizon04 - Aug 18, 2014 at 5:59 PM

      Still, that shows the power of narratives.

      Cavs will end this offseason with one of the oldest rosters in the NBA, but a media storyline will still be, “Can Kyrie, LeBron, and Love lead a very young roster to playoff success?”

      Meanwhile, 2/3 of their roster will be older than age 31.

      • eventhorizon04 - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:06 PM

        Age of Cavaliers players during the 2015 playoffs:
        Kyrie Irving, 23
        Dion Waiters, 23
        Tristan Thompson, 23
        Kevin Love, 26
        LeBron James, 30
        Andersen Varejao, 32
        Brendan Haywood, 35
        James Jones, 34
        Mike Miller, 35
        Shawn Marion, 37
        Ray Allen, 39

        I only listed the players most likely to get minutes during the playoffs.

      • sportsfan18 - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:23 PM

        well, if any “leaders” in the media would step up… that could be alleviated…

      • zoomy123 - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:26 PM

        How long are you going to keep pushing this false narrative that the Cavs have one of the oldest teams in the NBA? I’ve never seen someone so intent on lying about the facts surrounding a basketball team, lol.

        Irving, Waiters, Dellavedova, Thompson, Love, Lebron. That’s 6 players 29 or below. All of them will be regular rotation players. Marion, Miller, Varejao. That’s 3 regular rotation players older than 30. And Cleveland needs another backup center because Haywood is still injured. If they pick up Ekpe Udoh, for example, they get even younger. Even if they picked up Allen, more than half their regular rotation players will be younger than 30.

      • ProBasketballPundit - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:18 PM

        That’s what you call a half-truth, my friend. Using facts to deceive while not presenting the entire spectrum of information. Yes, there will be some old guys on the Cavs roster but the way they figure out the age of a team is by age-per-minutes-played. LeBron, Love, and Kyrie will get the most minutes. After that will be Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson. Four of those five guys is very young. This is a young team.

      • sportsfan18 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:13 PM

        this isn’t rocket science folks.

        add up the ages and divide by the total number of players…

        each year they have and track the average age of players on teams.

        slice and dice it any way you want to…

        average age of starting five…

        average age of top players with most min’s played (once the season is like 15 to 20 games old).

        spin isn’t necessary. it’s math and simply state your assumptions like starting 5, top 6 or 8 in min’s played or entire team…

    • antistratfordian - Aug 18, 2014 at 9:04 PM

      Age ain’t nothin’ but a number. I remember Donyell Marshall talking about young LeBron’s leadership – this is from an old Sports Illustrated article:

      “Marshall sat at his locker, describing what it’s like to play with James. ‘You feel guilty, but he’ll say, “The next time I it to you, shoot it again. If you miss, you miss it. If it’s a good shot, then that’s your shot-just shoot it again.”‘ Marshall chuckled as he looked over at James. ‘It’s funny because I’m here to teach him and be the leader, but then there are times when he picks me up. When I was 21, I was the second-youngest player in the NBA and just learning the game. He’s 21, and he’s the third-leading scorer.'”

  7. campcouch - Aug 18, 2014 at 7:35 PM

    I had a Platoon Sgt who gave me some sound advice on leadership. “Just because a guy is in charge, it doesn’t mean he should be.”

    I asked him if it applied to him as well and 50 pushups later he said “Yes”.

  8. lj312chicago - Aug 18, 2014 at 8:00 PM

    And this is why he will never be as good as Drose

    • georgiared - Aug 19, 2014 at 6:40 AM

      Yeah, DRose has that “riding the bench in street clothes” locked down. The man can wear a suit now

  9. csbanter - Aug 18, 2014 at 9:18 PM

    To hear all the nonsense coming out guys mouth now that Lebron is back in Cleveland is comical. The Cavs just wanted a player that can get them back on track once Lebron dumped them. Irving has become a building block and that helped a great deal in bringing James home.

    As far as this leadership nonsense no one cares at this point this is Lebron’s team. He’s the coach, and GM, the only thing he isn’t doing is writing paychecks.

  10. mungman69 - Aug 19, 2014 at 7:16 AM

    The Sixers have 3 players that when healthy could start on a lot of teams.

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