It was a homecoming on Monday, December 26, for the Brooklyn Nets’ star point guard Kyrie Irving. The 7-time NBA All-Star’s first home in the National Basketball Association was Cleveland after being drafted number one overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011. Irving was the star to follow up the LeBron James era in Cleveland before James returned to the Cavs, and the two won one of the most memorable NBA Finals series in history against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. Despite Irving being a major piece of the title run, he still attracted some boobirds in his return to Cleveland after demanding a trade in 2017.
Irving’s former teammate and current Cavalier Kevin Love spoke to the media about the boos the Cleveland crowd sent Kyrie’s way.
“I don’t really understand the boos,” Love told cleveland.com. “I can understand it from I guess if someone wants to take it from a political standpoint or a religious standpoint. I don’t know. But I think in terms of Kyrie, the basketball player, and what he meant for the organization, for Cleveland, for Ohio, I think he should get a great applause every time he comes. I think enough time has passed that we should love him up for what he meant to this organization.”
Kevin Love Says Cavs Should Retire Kyrie’s Jersey
Despite a relatively short tenure in Cleveland of only six years, Irving’s legacy with the Cavaliers may have suffered due to the way he exited the team in 2017, demanding a trade. Because of that, it remains unclear if the team would retire Irving’s number 2 jersey to hang in the rafters of the Cavs arena. When asked, Love didn’t hesitate in backing Irving, saying that the point guard “without a doubt” deserves his jersey retired in Cleveland.
“Without a doubt,” Love told Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com about the Cavs retiring Irving’s jersey. “Absolutely. Right away, after his career ends. It’s not even a question to me. He needs to be up there.”
Love was also quick to point out that because of Irving’s shot against the Warriors, the Cavaliers were able to raise a Championship banner, and that alone is deserving of his jersey in the same rafters.
“He made the biggest shot in franchise history,” he said, “and one of the most important shots in Finals history when you consider how it all went down — what it meant for the city, what it meant for his legacy, LeBron [James] ‘s legacy and everything else, including that Golden State team that became a dynasty and was historically great.”
Kyrie Irving Talks About Cleveland Exit
In May, Irving appeared on an episode of the I Am Athlete Podcast and discussed a myriad of things, including some regrets he has about his exit from the Cavs and LeBron James.
“If I was in the same maturity line and understanding of who I am, and I look back, we definitely, definitely would’ve won more championships, because there would’ve been a better man-to-man understanding about what I’m going through. I didn’t know how to share my emotions,” Kyrie explained on the I Am Athlete podcast. “I didn’t know how to do that. So instead of sharing, I isolated myself.”
Irving expressed a bit of regret about how he handled things and acknowledged what the Cavaliers could have been if he had stayed put.
“We didn’t talk during that time,” Irving admitted. “When I look back on what I was going through at that time, I wish I did, because it would’ve been a good understanding of what the future will hold for both of us, and we know how much power we both had together. Me and him in the league together running Cleveland, and then being able to put a better team together every single year would’ve definitely been worth it,” Irving continued.
Kyrie Irving’s Return to Cleveland
Irving had a strong game in his return to Cleveland on December 26. He scored 32 on the night, including an impressive 15-point fourth quarter which helped lift the Nets passed the Cavaliers in their 125-117 win over Cleveland.
The Nets now have won nine straight games, and Irving has the same championship group for this Brooklyn squad that the Cleveland team did in their championship campaign, and he spoke about that in his post game availability.
“It takes building a great team to accomplish something special,” he said. “I don’t take this moment that I’m at right now for granted because it took all those times for me to go through being here in Cleveland in order to achieve something special. I’m on a journey to do that with this team here in Brooklyn.”