As the “Will Kyrie Irving force a trade” drama continues to unfold, we have a new wrinkle to the tale thanks to one Kobe Bryant.
The Los Angeles Lakers legend sent this great tweet on Monday that included a funny Barack Obama GIF:
In other words: Everyone pipe down, I’m too busy doing non-NBA stuff to answer questions about his influence on the Cleveland Cavaliers (for now) guard.
But where is this all coming from in the first place?
The Washington Post’s Tim Bontemps shared this story about Irving in the Cavs’ locker room after winning a championship in 2016, which is fascinating in the context of Irving asking for a trade:
In the visitor’s locker room inside Oracle Arena a short time after hitting one of the biggest shots in NBA history to win the NBA Finals for the Cleveland Cavaliers last June, Kyrie Irving pulled out his phone. He didn’t use it to take a picture of the celebration unfolding around him, or to call a family member.
Instead, he called Kobe Bryant. In fact, he FaceTimed him.
It was a moment Irving had to share with his idol, the future Hall of Famer who has befriended the young guard during his early years in the NBA. And now that Irving has thrust himself squarely into the middle of the NBA rumor mill for some time to come thanks to telling Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert he wishes to be traded, it’s easy to see how Bryant’s influence has shaped him.
This has become Irving’s Kobe moment — a chance for him to make a play to permanently shape the way he’s viewed. Bryant clashed with Shaquille O’Neal in his early days in the league, chafing at the center’s stature within the team and sport and believing was capable of having the kind of success he’d already had with O’Neal on his own.
That’s probably what Bryant is referring to, especially given that “Bryant’s influence” is right there in black and white. It’s eye-opening with all this talk that Irving potentially wants to move away from LeBron James’s shadow, just like Bryant did with O’Neal.
What’s even more interesting is the Kobe-Kyrie connection has been made before … by Irving himself. Here’s what he told ESPN in June:
Irving counts Bryant as a mentor and has talked to him about O’Neal in order to avoid the same mistakes with James.
“It’s a tough balance,” Irving told ESPN. “Because everyone knows, Shaq was really dominant and [had] a lot of the individual accolades … unbelievable. And that’s who he was. And Kobe was just consistently working on his game and consistently trying to prove everyone all the time. And you got to commend somebody for that. That just shows the true testament of their will and what they’re willing to do and what they’re willing to sacrifice, but I know I don’t want to look back and say that I let my selfishness get in the way of us winning championships, because we have unbelievable talent on this team and unbelievable players, and so I don’t want to ever take that for granted.
“Whenever that time comes and it’s my time to be the leader of the franchise, then I’ll be well-prepared. But for now, I’m cool with just being — I’m very, very cool with being — a great guy on a great team.”
It appears that in Irving’s mind, that time has come.
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