Editor’s note: My how things change. A few short years ago, Cavaliers fans were mourning the loss of LeBron but feeling hopeful about an exciting rookie from Duke. Now that five-year vet just teamed up with a returned and reinvigorated King to overcome all odds and turn a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit into a truly legendary triumph. Irving himself dropped 26 points in Game 7, none bigger than the 3 he drilled in Steph Curry’s face with under a minute to play—see video below—breaking an 89-89 deadlock. Cleveland went on to win 93-89, and as the city celebrates its first title in 52 years, we revisit a Q&A we did with Irving a few years back. Check it out for some interesting stuff… including a question about King James himself.
Cleveland Cavaliers fans may be struggling with life after LeBron, but they’ve got a reason to be optimistic: 20-year-old point guard Kyrie Irving. Last season’s no. 1 pick and Rookie of the Year shot to fame not only for his jaw-dropping play but also for writing, directing and starring in those eye-popping Uncle Drew videos.
We caught up with the New Jersey native at the world premiere of his Foot Locker ad to talk going viral, manhood and advice for all the youngbloods.
“Basketball has never defined me. I’m never going to come up to somebody and say I’m an NBA player because it creates a barrier. I never want to be like that.”
You’ve been great in those Uncle Drew videos. Were you surprised the first one blew up like it did? Seventeen million views and counting…
Oh yeah, initially I was. And then once it started to pick up momentum and people started talking about it, it was just like a phenomenon.
How often do you now get called “youngblood”?
I get called it often. By my teammates, random people on the street, so… a lot.
You’re only 20, but is there a specific moment when you feel you became a man?
I still haven’t had that moment.
Not even when you got picked No. 1 in the NBA Draft?
So you don’t think of yourself as a man?
I think of myself as a man in terms of my career and because I pay bills and I pay taxes. I contribute to society, so I consider myself a man that way. But in terms of my maturity, I still feel like I have a long way to go. I’ll turn 21 in March. I’ll call myself a man then, ha ha.
What advice do you think Uncle Drew would have for all these youngbloods of 2012?
Have your priorities in line. Some people get caught up in different nuances of life that aren’t really important, that happens all the time. Just take care of your responsibilities.
If you could add one player to your current Cavaliers roster, who would it be?
I wish I could add one player. But until I can, I’m going to say nobody.
[big smile] No.
You seem really cool and likable. Do you think people forget that you went to Duke?
Ha ha. Yeah, I think people forget that all the time. I’ve gotten a lot of, “You don’t seem like a Dukie.” But my Duke ties are forever.
Do you think you’ve managed to avoid the Duke backlash because you only played 11 games for them?
Most likely. That has a lot to do with it.
Any parting words of wisdom for guys?
Just enjoy life. I enjoy the things that I do with my family and the time I spend with my friends regardless of basketball. Basketball has never defined me. I’m never going to come up to somebody and say I’m an NBA player, just because it creates a barrier. I never want to be like that. People are people. I don’t mind talking to anybody. So just be yourself.