Kyrie Irving is just as surprised as you are that Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
Okay, really, he’s just surprised that the Cleveland Cavaliers won a championship before his 25th birthday at all. As the 24-year-old told Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon:
“I never thought I’d be an NBA champion when I was 24 years old,” Irving said. “I just had to re-start, regroup and re-prioritize what I wanted to accomplish as a player and also as a teammate, this summer.”
Same here, Kyrie. Same here.
The Cavaliers were in absolute disarray prior to LeBron James’ homecoming in the summer of 2014. They never won more than 33 games through Irving’s first three seasons, and it didn’t look like they would be competing for a playoff spot, let alone a title, anytime soon.
James’ return changed all that. Irving suddenly went from the headliner of an extensive rebuild, to the primary sidekick of a title contender. And in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, he rose to the occasion—barely two years after the Cavaliers won 33 games during the 2013-14 campaign.
This is pretty mature of Irving to recognize and admit. Winning titles breeds complacency. That satisfaction can betray you, leaving you and your team struggling to find the same level of motivation that brought you your past success in the first place. James has been there before, and overcome it. But Irving—not to mention most of the Cavaliers—has not. So his willingness to shift priorities as a player and for his career shows wisdom beyond his years, and it bodes well for a Cleveland team that needs its troops to play like they haven’t won anything yet.