There was a lot of skepticism when Kyrie Irving was initially traded to the Dallas Mavericks from the Brooklyn Nets. Last season was marred in controversy for the all-star point guard. It all stemmed from misguided comments that Irving made about a documentary he watched titled, Hebrews To Negroes: Wake Up Black America. The piece is widely viewed as an antisemitic production. Many were offended at Irving’s support of the project, and his adamance that there was nothing wrong with supporting it. This brought a media firestorm to the Brooklyn Nets organization, who ultimately honored Irving’s request to be traded.

As it turned out, Irving was traded to the Dallas Mavericks. It was wondered how he would fare playing alongside the Mavericks’ primary ball handler Luka Doncic. The public at large also wondered if the “drama” that Irving seemed to carry with him was over. Before his stint with the Mavericks, Irving’s reputation in the NBA was mixed. He is unequivocally the best ball-handler the league has ever seen. His plays around and under the rim are masterful. His bag is deep, but he has also brought some bad press along to himself.

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During the height of the pandemic, New York City had strict laws for vaccinations for employees, especially those who worked in close contact with people. Players who played for New York teams were asked to get vaccinated to continue playing in the city. Irving chose not to, and that decision was viewed as him not being a team player. It also made the public view him as someone who may be difficult to play with. Locally, he is still widely viewed as the reason both James Harden and Kevin Durant left the team.

Now on his fourth stop in Dallas, Irving’s career trajectory doesn’t seem too bad. He still has a championship from Cleveland to his name. The Celtics have thrived after his exit, but damn it, the Nets are going to be stuck for a while. Nevertheless, Irving has been balling out with the Mavericks this season. Averaging 27 points in his two games this playoff season, it’s a microcosm of his season. Averaging nearly 60 games played in the last couple of seasons, Irving has been available for his team. And since moving to Dallas, there hasn’t been much hullabaloo during his pressers either.

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Irving is known to be a proud principled man. So, it’s been a change of pace to see Irving in a much lighter light these days. In the last couple of seasons, he didn’t seem as jovial, and some of that he did bring on himself. It may have been a case of Irving not believing that he could find the right ways of articulating his beliefs.

It takes some self-awareness to figure out the right way to balance your profession and the expression of your beliefs. That’s true in jobs within the area of public consumption. I truly feel that Irving once thought that he had to be silent on issues and just play the game that he excelled at. But that wasn’t the case, as many players have taken stances in the past. But how you say what you say makes a ton of difference. Not to mention, if what you say has factual deficiencies, then you have to recognize and own that as well.

It may come off as a quieter season for Irving. But that doesn’t mean that his philanthropy has ceased, or that he isn’t as principled as he has shown us all in the past. It just means that he has figured out how to remain a benefit to his team, while still being the beacon in his community that he wishes to be. He has done this all the while on a path to possibly upstage, and upset the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. A result I’d be happy to see quite frankly.