Still elite on his fourth NBA team, Kyrie Irving finds happiness in Dallas

OPINION: After self-inflicted damage in Brooklyn, Boston and Cleveland, life for “Uncle Drew” is finally drama-free.

Kyrie Irving (Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

— I Corinthians 13:11

Growing old and growing up are not synonymous concepts. 

The first is an involuntary process that occurs in daily increments, neverending until the day we die. The latter requires intentionality, a conscious effort to be responsible and accountable as we age and life becomes more complex.

Don’t let age fool you. A person who’s 50 can be less mature than a person with half that time on Earth. The rational part of our brain isn’t fully developed until around age 25, when functions for planning, prioritizing, impulse control and making good decisions are stronger.

At 32, after backfiring with Brooklyn, Boston and Cleveland, NBA star Kyrie Irving is clicking on all cylinders with Dallas. 

Barring an unprecedented postseason comeback by the Minnesota Timberwolves, Irving will reach the NBA Finals for the third time overall and the first time since 2017. He deserves credit for mounting this stage again, which wasn’t a given two years ago when he became persona non grata. He had every right to be an anti-vaxxer in Brooklyn but it ruined title hopes with Kevin Durant and James Harden. Then, after driving his career to the brink of extinction last year by promoting antisemitic material and refusing to apologize, he asked for a trade.

Nike dropped him. The media piled on, including ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who said Irving was “idiotic” and not to be trusted. Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy went way overboard with the virulent hate directed at some Black athletes, tweeting “you can make a legit argument Kyrie is the worst pro athlete who ever lived and top 100 worst human.” In a poll of NBA executives, a general manager told The Athletic that “Kyrie might not play in the NBA again.”

Yours truly said the trade request was a smart business decision after Irving’s career went left in Brooklyn, just like it did in Boston and Cleveland. Not sure if I’m an eternal optimist, but I know people can change for the better. Dallas provided the opportunity for a fresh start and Irving nailed it with help from two brothers who believed in him, coach Jason Kidd and general manager Nicco Harrison.

“For me as a young player, all I’ve ever wanted was that mentorship and guidance,” Irving told Andscape earlier this month. “I didn’t want to be lost out here to the lifestyle, to the distractions, to a lot of the unrealistic expectations and the pressures that you put on yourself. So, yeah, I’m thankful I have Nico and J-Kidd in my life.”


Nearing the end of his 14th NBA season, Irving’s essentially an oldhead. He’s got 10 years on Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards. Mavericks co-star Luka Doncic was 12 during Irving’s rookie season. But instead of getting stuck in his ways – continually wearing out welcomes despite generational talent – Irving is getting better as he gets older.

“At 24, 23 years old, you feel like you’re a leader, but you don’t know what it really takes to run an organization, or to really touch guys on and off the court where you give them a lot of confidence and you exude that belief in them,” Irving said last week. “So I’ve just been learning, reading a lot, failing a lot, and also dealing with the heavy criticism, while also being able to be back on this stage and not take it for granted.”

In a Facebook post that drew 1.1K likes and 576 shares, former NBA player Etan Thomas wrote “it’s interesting” that so many media members singing Irving’s praises went “out of their way not too long ago to disparage, discredit, vilify him … etc.”  As I noted earlier, some commentary was over the top, which unfortunately isn’t unusual when antisemitism is suspected. 

However, Irving brought a lot of drama on himself over the years. He voluntarily parted with LeBron James after winning a title in back-to-back Finals appearances with Cleveland. In Boston, he said he’d re-sign but bolted after two seasons, weary of the leadership burden. Forming a super team with Durant and Harden was disastrous for all parties, especially the Nets franchise.

But thank goodness for growth and give Irving credit. He seems to have found his happy place in Dallas, paired with another celestial player in Doncic and enjoying the warm climate. He’s playing as well as ever and recently dropped his new signature sneaker, the “Chief Hela’ Kai 1,” which pays tribute to his Native American heritage. 

He might’ve been a hot mess elsewhere but he’s been cool as a cucumber since arriving in Texas. 

“I feel like it’s a great chapter that’s being written right now,” he said this week. I’m enjoying every step of the way. I’m not taking anything for granted. … We talked about this earlier in the season, just how much I felt embraced, but I think it’s gone a little deeper than that. 

“It’s really helped me grow as a human being and find my peace out here.”

He still gets buckets. But he’s putting childish things away.

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