It’s been a pretty good year for Kyrie Irving. Just last month, he helped Team USA bring home yet another gold medal at the Rio Olympics, and prior to that helped deliver the city of Cleveland its first championship in more than 50 years. The latter was a particularly poignant moment in his life and career. Irving was spectacular in the Finals against the Warriors and punctuated his stellar play with the go-ahead three-pointer in crunch time to seal the title for the Cavs.
At just 24 years old, it is now the defining moment of his career, the significance of which is not lost on Irving. Via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
“Yes, my life’s changed drastically,” Irving told cleveland.com Saturday, during Irving’s friendship walk and basketball challenge downtown for Best Buddies, Ohio — an organization that gives social growth and employment opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“It’s kind of, you’re waiting for that validation from everyone, I guess, to be considered one of the top players in the league at the highest stage,” Irving said. “That kind of changed. I was just trying to earn everyone’s respect as much as I could.”
But it appears Irving still has a ways to go in terms of earning everyone’s respect. In Sports Illustrated‘s annual ranking of the top 100 players in the NBA, Irving came in at No. 25, behind numerous other players at his position such as Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Kyle Lowry, John Wall, and Damian Lillard. For Irving to finally crack that elite list of point guards, he’ll have to prove that he can bring it consistently as the Cavs embark on their title defense next season.