Earlier this summer, Kyrie Irving made a decision that shifted the balance of basketball power in New York City.
The star free-agent guard turned down the opportunity to play for the New York Knicks under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, choosing instead to go across the East River, signing a max deal with the Brooklyn Nets. Earlier this week, Irving said the decision was a slam dunk.
“It was an easy decision,” Irving told the NY Post. “I was coming here regardless.”
Irving added the attitude and culture in Brooklyn were major factors. The West Orange native also grew up watching the Nets years ago when they played in New Jersey and still considers them his hometown team.
“I’m a little unique because I got a chance to play in New Jersey and New York and the tri-state area,” Irving told reporters earlier this week. “I grew up as one of those kids around here just dreaming to play for his hometown team, which was the Nets.”
Irving got emotional while addressing the fans at Barclays Center prior to Wednesday’s regular-season opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
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Breaking a Boston Promise
Clearly, that proclamation did not come to fruition. In fact, based on Irving’s most recent comments about the ease of his free-agent decision, it seems like that was a flat out lie from the start, as Brooklyn has always been top of mind.
“There’s nothing like it,” Kyrie told reporters earlier this week. “The type of attitude that’s built here the type of players that are built here. Brooklyn is a place where they’ve built up everything around here. It’s just a different culture.”
The Nets will be Irving’s third team since joining the league and second in the last three years. Irving was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the first overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. He spent six seasons in Cleveland, winning a title with Lebron James and being named to four All-Star teams before being traded to Boston in 2017. After two tumultuous seasons with the Celtics, Kyrie is finally home.
Knicks Lose Out on Kyrie and KD
They not only failed to land the services of Kyrie Irving but superstar forward Kevin Durant also shunned the Knicks in another surprise move this offseason. Durant also feels the Knicks’ brand has faded over the last two decades as the team has been mired in a brutal stretch of losing and embarrassing personnel moves.
“I think a lot of fans look at the Knicks as a brand and expect these younger players in their lifetime don’t remember the Knicks being good,” Durant told Hot 97 FM. “I’ve seen the Knicks in the Finals, but kids coming up after me didn’t see that. So that whole brand of the Knicks is not as cool as, let’s say, the Golden State Warriors, or even the Lakers or the Nets now.”
According to The Athletic, KD and Kyrie’s decision to play in Brooklyn instead of Manhattan left the Knicks organization “stunned and “depressed.”
It’s certainly a new era of professional basketball in the Big Apple.
Follow Jared Smith on Twitter: @jaredleesmith