Kyrie Irving: Nets Star’s Five Most Iconic Moments
Kyrie Irving: NBA Champion, 7x All-Star, 3x All-NBA selection, 2012 Rookie of the Year, and former All-Star MVP. Elite layup package, deadshot from any distance, and arguably the best handles the league has ever seen. He’s known as the KAI, the Ankletaker, and of course, Uncle Drew. In this specific post, though, we’ll be look at some Kyrie Irving iconic moments.
Recently, however, he has been considered the most polarizing player in the league due to several reasons. He’s been the subject of much media criticism, particularly from the likes of Stephen A. Smith, due to matters related to Brooklyn’s vaccination mandates. Add to this his tiff with the Boston Celtics, his not-ideal exit from the Cleveland Cavaliers, and other controversial moments, and Kyrie’s basketball feats and legacy might just be overshadowed by everything else.
What a shame that would be, because KAI has a tremendous basketball legacy and is one of the greatest guards of the 21st century. He’s had a hell of an NBA career already, which he is adamant to bolster further.
For this piece, we’ll be taking a look at Kyrie Irving’s entire career, while ranking his five greatest and most iconic NBA moments to date. These can be from any time in his NBA career from 2011 to the 2020-21 season. All entries will be of the on-court, basketball moments variety only.
With that out of the way, let’s look at some Kyrie Irving iconic moments.
Kyrie Irving Iconic Moments
KAI takes Brandon Knight’s Ankles
Welcome to the NBA, Kyrie Irving.
To set the scene, Kyrie Irving of Duke University just became the 1 overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, one of the greatest draft classes of recent history. He was drafted at the back of an insane High School mixtape showing his potential to be the best ball-handler of all time.
Naturally, he was one of the best performing rookies early on and was a lock for the Rising Stars game.
It was at this game where Kyrie would dominate the competition and, in the process, take fellow rookie Brandon Knight’s ankles twice. In the first one, he easily drove past Knight, who promptly fell over as Irving got the easy bucket.
It’s the second on that’s the most memorable, however. Here, Irving made use of his trademark crossovers before hitting Knight with a deadly stepback. The former Milwaukee Buck would attempt to jump at Kyrie to contest, only to fall over once again in the close-out attempt. Kyrie had to hit the jump shot at that point, which he promptly did to the tune of Chris Webber’s colorful commentary.
This was the first of many iconic Kyrie Irving dribbling moments. He’d even win his first NBA accolade this game, being named Rising Stars MVP with stats of 4 points and 9 assists on 12-of-13 shooting. Truly a classic performance.
A Christmas Day Gift to Cleveland
Fast-forward from that Rising Stars Game containing some of the NBA’s brightest young talents, to the 2016 Christmas Day games. Here, Kyrie, LeBron James, and the Cleveland Cavaliers were fresh off winning their very first Championship in franchise history; they were set to face off against the Golden State Warriors in a Finals rematch.
With the newly-recruited Kevin Durant at their disposal, defeating the almighty Warriors in the Bay Area was a tall task for Kyrie and company. However, it was turned out to be a tight affair, with LeBron James lighting it up for 31 big points.
But as with the Finals of the previous season, it came down to Kyrie Irving down the wire. The Cavs’ #2 made play after play in crunch time to tie the game or take the lead; he first hit a leftie hook on KD to put the Cavs ahead, before assisting an and-1 LeBron dunk. He also made a crucial steal, preventing a KD fastbreak, after which he would attack the basket and score to bring the Warriors’ lead down to one.
The Cavs would secure a stop after a shot clock violation, giving them an opportunity to score off an inbound play. Here, Kyrie took the ball from the backcourt, drove, spun on Klay Thompson, and hit a tough fadeaway while falling down to finally put the Cavs ahead for good.
In the end, Kyrie gave Cleveland 25 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 7 steals, an iconic game-winner, and a dub in an all-time classic for Christmas.
Clutch 57 against the Spurs
Uncle Drew’s career-high in scoring was set in the 2014-15 season in an away game against the San Antonio Spurs. Naturally, it came in another classic filled with clutch moments.
Before getting into the most iconic part of the game, it’s worth noting how the Cavs stayed close to the Spurs in the 4th quarter. Kyrie Irving once again showed his finesse in the clutch, either hitting difficult shots or setting up Tristan Thompson for easy baskets to keep the lead from getting insurmountable. He’d hit all sorts of crazy shots, from an offensive rebound turned into an and-one play, to an off-balance corner three in Danny Green’s face to bring San Antonio’s lead down to three.
However, the Cavs still needed a bit of luck to have a shot at tying the game. Kawhi Leonard would miss both free throws after an offensive rebound, giving Cleveland the last shot with 3.1 seconds to go.
With 43 points already on the board on 4-of-4 shooting from three, Kyrie was once again the Cavs’ best bet to tie the game. Irving got the ball off the inbounds, pulled a hesitation move on Leonard, and then proceeded to hit his trademark right-elbow three to force overtime.
In OT, Kyrie and LeBron absolutely dominated, with both hitting improbable shots to take the 128-125 away win. Kyrie scored 11 more points in overtime to take his tally to 57 markers on 7-of-7 shooting from three.
Twin 41s in Game 5
The first of two entries from arguably the greatest NBA Finals matchup in league history. It’s why they made the cut into our list of Kyrie Irving iconic moments.
The Cleveland Cavaliers found themselves on the brink of a second-straight NBA Finals loss in 2016, going into Game 5 in a 3-1 hole against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. It’s an improbable do-or-die situation for the Cavaliers. As the two best Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James had to play borderline-perfect games to keep their team alive.
That’s exactly what they did.
KAI and Bron put on dominant scoring performances to ward off the impending elimination. Against one of the league’s premier perimeter defenders in Klay Thompson, Kyrie lit up the Oracle arena with 41 huge points, going 17-of-24 from the field. These are composed of the usual Kyrie Irving scoring arsenal, ranging from off-hand floaters and lay-ups to turnaround fadeaway mid-rangers.
Both Kyrie and LeBron finished with 41 points, the first-ever duo to do so in an NBA Finals game. The Cavs absolutely needed these behemoth joint scoring performances to stay alive. Kyrie comes up clutch once again for the Cavs, but the best is yet to come.
Arguably the greatest shot in the history of the NBA.
At the back of massive scoring performances from their dynamic duo, the Cleveland Cavaliers managed to claw their way back into the series after being in a 3-1 hole. They had the opportunity to complete the greatest Finals comeback in NBA history. To call it a tall order is a big understatement; they were going against the Golden State Warriors in the Oracle Arena, looking to cap off their record-breaking season with a Championship.
The Cavs rallied and kept the game neck-to-neck after a slow start. Deep into the 4th quarter, the two teams were at an 89-all deadlock.
It was then that two of the greatest NBA Finals moments would take place. First, LeBron James would come out of nowhere to prevent a sure Andre Iguodala layup with his trademark chase-down block.
It all then came down to Kyrie Irving, the Cavs closer and best perimeter threat. Coach Ty Lue drew up a play for Kyrie to isolate against Stephen Curry; Irving went to his favorite right elbow, dribbled, stepped back, and drained the fadeaway three on his defender’s face to finally put Cleveland ahead.
The Cavs held on to complete the very first 3-1 comeback in NBA Finals history, with Kyrie’s shot being instrumental to the Game 7 win. The context, the immense pressure, the shot difficulty, and everything else make this one of the most iconic moments in league history, and certainly the most iconic of Uncle Drew’s career.