CLEVELAND – So many people want Kyrie Irving to be something he’s not. They want him to be more like Mike Conley, or Chris Paul, or even Stephen Curry. Some of that is by his own design. Irving’s most noteworthy off-court contribution is him dressed up like another person, covered in makeup and aged by about 50 years. It’s no surprise Irving has as much fun as he does shooting those commercials and videos. As Uncle Drew, Irving can hide and play another role. He can take a short break from being Kyrie Irving and all that goes into it.
Elite athletes have a habit of acting like they’re above criticism and don’t pay attention to the news cycle. (Well, except for guys like Draymond Green who read everything and are fueled off that.) Kyrie falls in that former camp. He takes after the player often sitting to his right in the postgame podium, LeBron James, who would seemingly rather confess to a murder than admit that he reads or listens to anything anyone says about him. So Irving will say all the right things in an interview, and simply shrug off the headlines or the growing consternation. That doesn’t mean he isn’t listening, or isn’t reading.
This is a 24-year-old we’re talking about. His public identity isn’t controlled by himself anymore, just as our identities aren’t controlled by ourselves. Sure, we’re people. And we are who we are, and those close to us know us for more than an image, an avatar, or a handle. But it’s impossible to control the narrative once it gets away. Get caught expressing emotion at a sporting event, and you’re a meme. Wind up in a viral video, and you’re Chewbacca Mom.