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Breaking Down the Unbelievable Ascent of Kyrie Irving

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Breaking Down the Unbelievable Ascent of Kyrie Irving
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving was an 18-year-old freshman for the Duke Blue Devils less than 24 months ago.

In the short time since, the now 20-year-old point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers has ascended to the ranks of NBA superstardom.

With a number of game-winning shots on his resume already, Irving followed up his Rookie of the Year campaign by being only the seventh player in NBA history to appear in an All-Star Game before his 21st birthday.

This after a college career that would span 11 games, leaving some to suggest the Cavs would be best served by spending their first overall pick on Arizona's Derrick Williams.

Irving would reinforce Cleveland's decision to rebuild the franchise around him, however, as soon as he first took the court last season.  

Currently the league's highest scoring point guard this year, Irving's fun-loving, youthful and engaging personality has also allowed him to connect with fans across the NBA universe along the way.

 

An ascent toward superstardom that can be traced back to game No. 19 of Irving's NBA career

Kyrie Irving scores with 2.6 seconds left to beat Boston Celtics.

Kyrie Irving was a 19-year-old rookie on January 29, 2012. He was leading an undermanned Cavaliers team into Boston for a matchup with Celtics.

The same Celtics that eliminated Cleveland from the postseason in 2010.  

In a matchup with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 23 points.

On the Cavaliers' final play, he attacked the basket and connected on the game's winning shot with 2.6 seconds remaining to give his team the 88-87 win. 

The legend of Kyrie Irving, NBA superstar, was born in earnest that night. 

 

Irving wins Rookie of the Year in a landslide

Top 10 Plays from Kyrie Irving's Rookie Season.

Irving would use an MVP performance in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend as a rookie to first introduce the brilliance of his NBA game on a national stage.

The rest of the work he put in that first season, for a Cavaliers team devoid of nationally televised games, was all done locally.

Despite the lack of exposure, Irving would eventually earn 117 of the 120 first-place votes in winning Rookie of the Year honors. His scoring average of 18.5 points and free-throw percentage of 87.2 each ranked first among all rookies.



Irving's star continues to rise off the NBA court with Uncle Drew and Team USA

Kyrie Irving as Uncle Drew

The epic debut of Uncle Drew first highlighted a fun-loving personality that the masses of NBA fans didn't know Irving had in May of 2012. 

His performance was creatively engaging and left audiences looking forward to the next installment. 

A series that's been since followed up with two more episodes, the original has accumulated over 20 million views on Pepsi Max's YouTube page.

Later that summer, Irving was also seen dribbling circles around Team USA at a training camp scrimmage in Las Vegas.

Irving would then famously challenge Kobe Bryant to a game of one-on-one that many of us are still hoping to one day see.  

 

Sophomore campaign continues with Irving leading all point guards in scoring

NBA Point Guard Scoring List (via ESPN.com)

There has been no sophomore slump from Irving.

Even with one full season of NBA tape for defenses to use to adjust their collective attack.

The 23.3 points he's averaged through Monday currently leads all point guards in scoring.

Irving also ranks fourth among all point guards with a PER of 22.65 and sixth at his position shooting 42 percent from three-point territory. 



The buzzer-beaters continue as Irving's late-game performance elevates

Kyrie Irving hits three at buzzer to beat Toronto Raptors.

The numbers this season support the idea that Irving elevates his performance as the game goes on.

In the fourth quarter or overtime this season, with five minutes remaining or less and the margin within five points in either direction, Irving has connected on 12-of-28 field-goal attempts, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

Those field goals also include game-winning buzzer-beaters like the one shown above that Irving nailed from long-range earlier this season to beat the Raptors in Toronto.
 

An All-Star coronation of the NBA's next superstar

I'm not sure enough was made of the Hall of Fame list that Irving joined in becoming the seventh All-Star in NBA history before his 21st birthday.

Less than two years prior, debates actually existed among respected pundits who thought that Derrick Williams should be drafted before Irving. Now, Irving's doing things that only point guards like Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas did before him.

Regardless of that, however, Irving etched his star on the NBA marquee by performing on each day of All-Star Weekend. 

After playing in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge again for the second year, Irving then won the three-point contest before making his All-Star Game debut on Sunday.

Next month, on March 23, he'll celebrate his 21st birthday.

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