At the end of the day, Kyrie Irving made a smart business decision in requesting a trade

OPINION: The NBA star may get tagged as a “bad teammate” after his tenure in Brooklyn, but once you expand the equation beyond the Nets’ best interests and include Irving’s financial interests, his decision makes perfect business sense. 

Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets dribbles during the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers at Barclays Center on January 30, 2023 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

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ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said NBA star Kyrie Irving’s trade request was “idiotic.” Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy went further, tweeting that “you can make a legit argument Kyrie is the worst pro athlete who ever lived and top 100 worst human.”

Portnoy’s comment represents the virulent strain of hate among some media members and doesn’t merit a response. Smith’s comment was overly harsh and overly simplistic. But it was closer to my initial reaction Friday when Irving requested a trade after four controversy-filled seasons with the Brooklyn Nets.

I thought the smarter move for Irving was simple: 1) Continue to ball out like he’s done since returning from suspension for promoting antisemitic material on social media. 2) Keep his head down and prove he can avoid being a distraction. 3) Become a free agent this summer after showing would-be suitors he can play without drama.

That strategy would’ve made a lot of sense for his image and for his teammates, especially superstar Kevin Durant, who’s still battling to make something of their renowned merger. The Nets have vaulted into contention since Jacque Vaughn replaced Steve Nash and were on a tear until Durant hurt his knee last month.

Irving is clearly among the NBA’s best players, voted an All-Star Game starter this season while averaging 27.1 points, 5.3 assists and 5.1 rebounds. Playing at that level has never been an issue; his availability due to personal or physical reasons have been the problem.

But criticism of the trade request (reportedly granted Sunday) lacked mention of significant contractual implications, factors that I didn’t compute. Once you expand the equation beyond the Nets’ best interests and include Irving’s financial interests, his decision makes perfect business sense. 

Argue amongst yourselves which interests should take precedence.

The beginning of the end arrived last summer, when Brooklyn — understandably — declined to offer a max extension. Irving would’ve begun this season elsewhere if prospective sign-and-trade deals materialized, but they didn’t. Instead he opted into the $36.5 million due for the final year of his contract. 

Smart move, right? Unsigned moving forward, Irving faced another choice regarding his cash. 

He could’ve sign for upwards of $200 million from the Nets/any team that acquired him before the Feb. 9 trade deadline. Or he could hit the market this summer and face substantially lower offers from teams over the salary cap. Brooklyn apparently made the decision easy.

Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets poses for a photograph during Media Day at HSS Training Center on September 27, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

Again, we’re talking business. The Nets had every right and good reason to hesitate at giving Irving $198.5 million over four years like he seeks. They also had the right to include stipulations in the extension they did offer, reportedly that an NBA title is required to receive the contract’s full amount.

I’ve heard of bonuses for winning championships, receiving awards, accumulating statistics, etc. But I’ve never ever heard of such clauses being tied to base compensation. Irving reportedly was insulted and told Brooklyn to forget about him. He would leave at season’s end or via a now-requested trade. (Please don’t uses “ask” and “demand” interchangeably when players want a change of scenery; teams always have the final say.)   

Now Brooklyn faced a choice of its own: Get nothing in return if Irving walked away this summer, or honor his request and recoup a return for his phenomenal talent. Both parties got something out the deal. Irving is with the Dallas Mavericks, who can use his “Bird rights” to offer a max extension or offer two years at about $80 million. The Nets received two starters to help now and three draft picks — including a first-rounder — to help later.

“Thank you NetsWorld fans and supporters for the Love on and off the court,” Irving tweeted Monday. “I will forever be grateful I got to live out my dream I had as a Kid with y’all. It will always be Love from me and my family.”

The feeling likely is unrequited from most Brooklyn fans. 

They envisioned championship runs with Durant, Irving and, at one point, James Harden. Instead, Durant and Irving played a measly 74 games together and the threesome managed just 16. Hardly a super team.

Irving has to live with repercussions of a career path with three disgusted franchises in his wake. Things didn’t end well in Cleveland or Boston before they went left in Brooklyn. But the Nets aren’t completely innocent. 

The team suspended him indefinitely over the antisemitic post and required him to fulfill six arbitrary requirements before he could be reinstated. Owner Joe Tsai concluded that Irving “does not have any beliefs or hate towards Jewish people.” But we can question Tsai’s beliefs and/or hate toward China’s Uyghur Muslims; his company Alibaba has helped fund what’s described as the Uyghurs’ “cultural genocide.”  

You might argue that asking for a trade made Irving a “bad teammate.” But each and every player acknowledges that pro sports are commercial enterprises more than anything. Looking at his request and the outcome through that lens, we can’t say Irving was an idiot or a terrible human being.

It was strictly business, a tactical use of leverage.

Well played.

Deron Snyder

Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at

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