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Kyrie Irving’s fall from media darling to depiction as anti-Semitic villain – where did it go wrong?

Seemingly a lifetime ago, but technically just over six years, Kyrie Irving became a legend in NBA circles.  

While LeBron James attracts a large portion of credit for the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ drought-breaking first franchise title, it was Kyrie Irving’s winning shot in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals that ensured immortality for both he and his team. The favored Golden State Warriors once held a 3-1 series lead, but Irving’s dramatic 3-pointer with time running down in Oakland sealed the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history. 

Now, 2,329 days later, Irving has become transformed from a media darling to a pariah, alienating the Brooklyn Nets organization, who have suspended the star for at least five games.

The latest drama surrounding the 30-year-old relates to controversy caused by a tweet, posted by Irving, that links to the Amazon page for the 2018 film ‘Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.’ 

The film is based on a 2015 book of the same name, which has been described as ‘venomously anti-Semitic.’ Specifically, it quotes Hitler to convince the audience about the existence of a Jewish plan for world domination.

Since then, he has been suspended by the Nets franchise, who released a frustrated statement Thursday night, saying the punishment stemmed from his ongoing lack of apology.

Kyrie Irving was suspended for at least five games by the Brooklyn Nets organization Thursday

Kyrie Irving was suspended for at least five games by the Brooklyn Nets organization Thursday

In the aftermath, Irving has belatedly apologized via Instagram — albeit far too late according to the court of public opinion. 

Irving has seemingly always been a free-thinker, from once believing the earth to be flat to indulging — and re-sharing — Alex Jones conspiracy theories. 

NBA insider Zach Lowe currently believes Irving is an untouchable commodity despite his undeniably generational basketball talent. The ESPN expert Thursday described the Nets star’s trade value as ‘radioactive.’

So, where has it all gone wrong for the one-time NBA Champion who was hailed as a hero and now finds himself the NBA’s leper? 

DailyMail.com delves into the recent history of the league’s arguably most polarizing player. 

The New Jersey native caught the attention for publicizing the 2018 film 'Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America' on Instagram and Twitter with a link to its Amazon page

The New Jersey native caught the attention for publicizing the 2018 film ‘Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America’ on Instagram and Twitter with a link to its Amazon page

KYRIE IRVING’S TWEET SPARKS INTEREST IN ‘ANTI-SEMITIC’ FILM 

Although Irving has denied promoting the film, ‘Hebrews to Negroes’ has skyrocketed in popularity since last week’s Twitter post. 

The documentary is currently Amazon’s top seller in Ethnic Studies, and alternate versions or sequels held six of the next 10 spots on that list as of Friday, according to Front Office Sports. 

Irving entered the NBA as the No. 1 overall draft choice by the then-lowly Cleveland Cavaliers franchise in 2011. 

Cleveland was still reeling from James’ first departure from the team, when he signed with the Miami Heat in 2010. 

Irving’s arrival after a brief college career at Duke seemed to point to a resurgence for the Cavaliers.  

His first seasons in the league were filled with promise, winning Rookie of the Year in his debut campaign before earning his first of seven All-Star appearances in his sophomore season. 

In 2014, James returned to the Cavs and the following season culminated in the greatest NBA Finals comeback in NBA history — in which Irving was an integral part. 

The New Jersey native dropped 41 points in a pivotal road Game 5 with the Cavs down 3-1 prior. 

But the the biggest moment of his career arrived with 53 seconds remaining in Game 7 in Golden State. 

Irving crossed up Steph Curry before launching a dagger from three to sealing the city of Cleveland’s first sports championship in 52 years.

LeBron James (C) and Irving (CL) were a dynamic partnership on the floor for the CLE Cavaliers

LeBron James (C) and Irving (CL) were a dynamic partnership on the floor for the CLE Cavaliers

The crowning moment of his career came in the closing stages of Game 7 of the '16 NBA Finals

The crowning moment of his career came in the closing stages of Game 7 of the ’16 NBA Finals

The Melbourne-born, American-raised 30-year-old spearheaded the Cavs to their first title

The Melbourne-born, American-raised 30-year-old spearheaded the Cavs to their first title

Defeating the 73-9 Golden State Warriors and erasing an historic 3-1 deficit — a feat never previously achieved in NBA Finals history — should have ensured Irving’s status as an untouchable legend in Ohio lore. 

Only Clevelanders can answer where Irving ranks in their minds but his image was undeniably tainted by requesting a trade a mere season removed from the ultimate triumph. 

The July 2017 request was reportedly born out of a desire to step out of the shadows of James and assert himself as the focal point of a team, rather than remaining a sidekick to The King. Numerous reports suggested Irving had no interest in playing with James after he fell out with the now-Lakers star, despite their unquestionable on-court chemistry. 

Ultimately, the then-25-year-old was traded in August of 2017 for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Celtics’ 2018 first-rounder, courtesy of Brooklyn — which became Colin Sexton — and a 2020 second round pick. 

It was also in 2017 when Irving brought to light his theory of the earth being something other than spherical.

‘The Earth is flat,’ he insisted on the Roadtrippin podcast with Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye. ‘The Earth is flat… It’s right in front of our faces. I’m telling you, it’s right in front of our faces. They lie to us.’

Irving entered the NBA as the No. 1 overall draft pick by the then-lowly Cavs franchise in 2011

Irving entered the NBA as the No. 1 overall draft pick by the then-lowly Cavs franchise in 2011

The former Duke Basketball star received an initial warm reception after signing for Boston

The former Duke Basketball star received an initial warm reception after signing for Boston

FINE LINE FOR KYRIE

Fined $25,000 for refusing to speak to reporters in Dec. 2020, labeling them ‘pawns’

Stomped on the Boston Celtics logo before his first game as a Net at TD Garden 

C’s fan resultantly threw a water bottle at him during said matchup 

Fined $25,000 for cursing at heckling Cavs fans in Jan. 2022

Fined $50,000 for flipping off Celtics fans following playoff loss in April ’22

Initially, Irving received a hero’s welcome in Boston with the team desperate to add a game-changing piece to allow a usurpation of the Cavaliers as the East’s preeminent team. 

His time in Boston was interrupted with injuries and an inability to mesh with his teammates sufficiently to overthrow James and company. 

Irving had spoken publicly about his desire to inevitably re-sign with the Celtics once his contract was up, shortly after being traded to the TD Garden. Though he reneged on the verbal affirmation to instead join the Brooklyn Nets to be closer to his family.

‘At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s best for my career,’ Irving said, per NBC Sports Boston in February 2019 — five months before signing with Brooklyn.

‘I spent the last eight years trying to do what everyone else wanted me to do — managers, other personnel — and I don’t owe anybody s***.’

Irving signed with the Nets in July of 2019 alongside friend and fellow superstar, Kevin Durant on a four-year, $136.49million deal, although his three years in Brooklyn have been mired in controversy and abject on-court failures ever since. 

Irving joined the Celtics franchise in August 2017 following a trade request while in Cleveland

Irving joined the Celtics franchise in August 2017 following a trade request while in Cleveland

Although things did not go too smoothly in Boston for Irving during two seasons with the C's

Although things did not go too smoothly in Boston for Irving during two seasons with the C’s

Admittedly, Irving’s first season at the Barclays Center was without Durant who was then recovering from a ruptured Achilles suffered while playing for Golden State in the 2019 NBA Finals.  

His season was also marred by injury with a shoulder issue forcing an early end the year. 

Irving remained active as a voice within the NBA fraternity and was among several players who initially expressed concern about the NBA’s restart in the bubble in the wake of George Floyd’s death. 

According to retired NBA star Stephen Jackson, Irving bought Floyd’s family a house in the wake of his passing. 

In a lengthy statement in the weeks following Floyd’s death, amid Black Lives Matter Protests — in which Irving took part — he expressed various idea about black oppression.  

Though the mood quickly changed once Irving crossed to Eastern Conference rival, Brooklyn

Though the mood quickly changed once Irving crossed to Eastern Conference rival, Brooklyn

Celtics fans were quick to turn on Irving after reversing his affirmation that he would re-sign with the Boston franchise, before opting for the Nets in a move prompted by family reasons

Celtics fans were quick to turn on Irving after reversing his affirmation that he would re-sign with the Boston franchise, before opting for the Nets in a move prompted by family reasons

‘It’s clear White Supremacy and Corporations use us Native Indigenous Black Folk when it is beneficial for their agenda and pockets, so be aware of the truth in plain sight Family,’ Irving wrote on Instagram.

Then, Irving was within the popular school of thought, though he has strayed into more polarizing waters since, becoming something of a lightning rod for those against the vaccine and government pressure to take the measure as a means of gaining a normalized existence. 

Irving is still unvaccinated and missed more than half of Brooklyn’s games during the 2021-2022 season. The campaign prior was relatively positive for the Nets, losing to eventual champions, the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in seven games. 

Though the Nets’ 2021-22 season was a unmitigated disaster, partly due to Irving’s absence as a result of vaccine mandates within New York City. The 30-year-old returned in March after requirements previously barring Irving from playing at the Barclays Center were removed.

A man who threw a water bottle at Irving during his return to TD Garden was arrested in May

A man who threw a water bottle at Irving during his return to TD Garden was arrested in May

The former Cavaliers superstar failed to recapture the same spark he'd shown alongside James

The former Cavaliers superstar failed to recapture the same spark he’d shown alongside James

Irving was a strong voice in the wake of George Floyd's death and spoke up for black rights

Irving was a strong voice in the wake of George Floyd’s death and spoke up for black rights

In a September press conference, Irving revealed his decision to remain unvaccinated cost him somewhere in the region of nine figures. 

‘I gave up four years, $100-something million deciding to be unvaccinated,’ he told reporters. ‘That was the decision. It was contract [and] get vaccinated or be unvaccinated and there’s a level of uncertainty of your future.’ 

Irving went on to say that he believed the team was giving an ‘ultimatum’ by refusing to agree to a long-term extension unless he got the COVID-19 vaccine, which was later refuted by general manager, Sean Marks.

‘It’s either you work and get vaccinated, just like this ultimatum was given to other people, or you sit at home and now we get to talk s**t about your decision and you personally and we make all these judgments. 

‘I had to deal with both ends of the spectrum. So I sat right in the middle and I knew I was doing the right thing for me. And I had to stay rooted in that decision.

‘I didn’t appreciate how me being unvaccinated came to be a stigma within my career that I don’t want to play, or that I’m willing to give up everything to be a voice for the voiceless,’ Irving continued.

That same month, Irving shared a 2002 video of Alex Jones describing a ‘new world order’ that would unleash viruses to gain control of the public.

In the video Jones said: ‘Yes there have been corrupt empires. Yes they manipulate. Yes there are secret societies. Yes there have been oligarchies throughout history.

‘And yes, today in 2002, there is a tyrannical organization calling itself the New World Order…by releasing diseases and viruses and plagues upon us, we then basically get shoved into their system.’

In the newly minted age of athletes being given a platform to be more than their profession, to extend further than existing as more than a mute, physical force of nature, Irving finds himself on an island. 

Undoubtedly, many would have preferred he would have ‘shut up and dribble’ as Laura Ingraham infamously said in 2018. Anti-Semitic or otherwise, Irving seems to be perceived as the NBA’s answer to Kanye West. 

An undeniable artist whose supreme talent could be written off as a result of his usually less than commonplace views. With the length of his Nets suspension unknown beyond the next five games, it is unclear what is next for Irving. 

Though it seems silence amidst the bouncing of a basketball will not be in the cards for Kyrie.

The Nets superstar has long considered himself a deep-thinker and a 'voice for the voiceless'

The Nets superstar has long considered himself a deep-thinker and a ‘voice for the voiceless’




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