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Kyrie Irving on Superstardom: 'Going to Be Attacked for the Rest of Your Career'

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2019

Boston Celtics' Kyrie Irving plays against the Houston Rockets during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Sunday, March 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving has resigned himself to that fact that being a superstar in the NBA comes with a great deal of criticism.

In an interview with Joe Vardon of The Athletic published on Saturday, Irving talked about everything that comes along with being a go-to guy on an NBA team:

"The deal that I had to become aware of, that I was signing up for, was like once you become one of the most coveted guys in the league, you're signing up for basically, like you're going to be attacked for the rest of your career. You're going to be praised. You're going to be brought up, you're going to be brought down because that's just the nature of the business."

Irving played second fiddle to LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers for three seasons, but he was re-established as the alpha dog upon getting traded to the Celtics prior to last season. While Kyrie has had some success in that role, he has also been criticized at times this season with the Celtics underperforming to the tune of a 40-26 record.

The 26-year-old Irving has become well aware this season of everything that comes along with being the face of a franchise. That may be why he reached out to James to apologize for how his tenure alongside his former teammate with the Cavs ended.

Irving told reporters in January, after publicly calling out some of his younger teammates, that he had a conversation with LeBron that included plenty of self-reflection:

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"Obviously, this was a big deal for me, because I had to call [LeBron] and tell him I apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips, and I wanted everything at my threshold. I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that, and the responsibility of being the best in the world and leading your team is something that is not meant for many people.

"[LeBron] was one of those guys who came to Cleveland and tried to show us how to win a championship, and it was hard for him, and sometimes getting the most out of the group is not the easiest thing in the world."

On the surface, the Celtics seem to have a good mix of veterans and young players with Irving, Al Horford and Gordon Hayward leading Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. While that has worked to their advantage at times, head coach Brad Stevens has also struggled to find the ideal mix.

Even so, Irving has been adamant that things will be sorted out by the time the playoffs roll around, and he told Vardon that constant questions about the the Celtics' issues have worn on him: "It's a little maniacal at times and a bit repetitive because you get asked the same questions about the regular season and we all know that, all that goes out the window once you get to to the playoffs. The thing that matters the most is how connected you are as a team heading into the postseason."

With both Irving and Hayward out for the playoffs last season, the Celtics reached the Eastern Conference Finals and finished one win short of making it to the NBA Finals. Despite largely being healthy this season, they are just fifth in the Eastern Conference.

Irving has most often been tasked with answering the questions since he is a six-time All-Star and Boston's best player. Criticism will always be present, but Irving and the Celtics can silence the doubters with a strong performance during the playoffs.

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