Kyrie Irving Will Cement Superstar Status with Huge All-Star Game Performance

Justin Onslow@@JustinOnslowNFLContributor IIFebruary 17, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 16:  Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates after winning the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest part of 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend at the Toyota Center on February 16, 2013 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ fanbase hasn’t quite gotten over the departure of LeBron James, but Kyrie Irving is giving it plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future.

James is nearly three years removed from the Cavs, and his success with the Heat in that span has left Cleveland fans with mixed feelings and an even stronger desire to have a winning team to cheer for. The Cavs have a core of terrific young players in place, none more talented than their superstar point guard.

Irving was the consensus choice for No. 1 candidacy in the 2011 NBA draft. Despite a freshman campaign at Duke that saw Irving play just 11 games, his talent was undeniable, and the Cavs took advantage of the opportunity to make him the first player chosen.

After a rookie campaign mired by injuries, Irving has finally cemented himself as a star in the league. The 20-year-old is averaging 23.5 points, 5.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game—numbers that move him into the discussion of elite players in the NBA.

Irving’s stellar performance this season was rewarded with a trip to Houston for the NBA All-Star Weekend. It’s not as if the point guard is an unknown, but his spectacular performance in the Rising Stars Game (32 points) and Three-Point Contest victory certainly served to dispel any doubts about the budding superstar’s massive potential.

With his ankle-breaking moves, deadly accuracy from behind the arc and poise and maturity beyond his 20 years, Irving is set to break out into the national spotlight on Sunday. While LBJ, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant lead the predictions for the game’s MVP honors, Irving will look to outshine them all.

The All-Star Game is all about entertainment—big dunks and lots of offense are sure to dominate the action. There isn’t a lot of fanfare for rebounds and assists, and perimeter players typically steal the spotlight. As Irving has already displayed this weekend, he’s no stranger to the spotlight. He seems to thrive on it (as quoted by Michael Wallace of ESPN):

This weekend was just basically about earning everybody's respect and getting a chance for people to see me that usually don't see me. We're not nationally televised like some other teams. This weekend is to show my face and get everybody acclimated to my face in the league.

Everyone should heed those words. Irving’s is a face with which every NBA fan should get familiar.

There’s little doubt the 2011-12 Rookie of the Year will put on a show when he takes the court on Sunday. He may not outscore the likes of Durant and Kobe—then again, he might—yet Irving has the potential to do special things, and fans can count on a massive performance from Irving on Sunday.

Irving is finally in the national spotlight, and he’s earning the attention he has deserved all season. He’s putting up superstar numbers, but not everyone has taken notice. With a big performance in Houston this weekend in front of a national audience, Irving will earn his title as one of the league’s brightest young superstars, and no one will dispute it.