The Golden State Warriors had their hearts broken by Kyrie Irving in the 2016 NBA Finals, but he has recently become a cult icon of sorts for fans.
Kyrie Irving delivered the biggest blow to the Golden State Warriors in franchise history. In fact, the case could be made that it was the biggest blow that anyone–including Michael Jordan–has ever delivered to anyone. He sent the Warriors into summer ’16 with broken hearts.
The Warriors went 73-9 in the regular season and built a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. Irving, along with LeBron James, helped bring the Cleveland Cavaliers all the way back to force a Game 7. As the decisive game hung in the balance late in the fourth quarter, Irving hit an extremely difficult shot over the outstretched arm of the league’s first-ever unanimous MVP. Less than a minute of game time later, he would be a champion.
One year later, Irving would leave the Oracle Arena floor after an elimination game once again. Only this time, he would be on the losing end. It would be the last time he suited up for the franchise that drafted him.
Irving is now a Boston Celtic after he requested a trade following the Finals. Not only is he now a member of the storied Celtics organization, he’s also become a sort of hilarious cult figure for Warriors fan. It’s a surprising turn of events, but one that’s been extremely fun to watch unfold.
Without Irving’s shot, it’s unlikely that Kevin Durant joins the Golden State Warriors. They probably cap off the greatest season of all-time, but they jeopardize their future by getting stuck paying Harrison Barnes max money for several years. With their core, they’d be a championship contender, but their window for a dynasty would be a lot smaller than it is with Durant.
Fast forward to June 2017 and Irving’s poor play early in the series became a reason why the Warriors jumped out to an early lead. It’s hard not to think that his play in 2016–especially his final shot–motivated Stephen Curry in the rematch. The Warriors’ guard ended up hitting an amazing last minute shot in the closeout Game 5 of the Finals.
Irving’s summer started negatively with a Finals loss. Then, after requested a trade that would send him away from James, he mocked the Cavaliers’ star with Curry at a wedding. The two-time champion danced in the same way that James had done in an Instagram video, something Irving laughed about.
That was only the beginning though. Irving has now turned his attention towards bashing Cleveland, something Warriors fans have proudly down for the last three years. He’s gone after the Cavs’ system (which is a product of James’ style and leadership) and it’s lack of ball movement. He called Boston a “real, live sports city” suggesting that Cleveland is not that at all.
Warriors fans have eaten it up, understandably. Irving is confirming what they have been half-joking about all along. Irving is tackling everything from the city itself to James’ overbearing nature.
Irving will look to topple the Cavaliers this year. While the wounds from his Game 7 shot have not completely healed yet–and they may never heal–he’s pouring salt on the wounds of the Warriors’ big rival and that’s pretty good, too.