Kyrie Irving believes he was snubbed from the NBA’s 75th Anniversary list of the top-75 players in the league’s history.
Irving, who was recently named one of the 40 Greatest McDonald’s All-Americans of all time, said he will wait until the end of his career to make larger remarks about his omission on the league’s most illustrious list of players.
“I’m not tryna sit up here and spew out the reasons why I felt I deserved to be on the top-75,” Irving said after the Nets’ come-from-behind victory over the Knicks on Wednesday. “I think I’ll wait for that when my career is over and maybe on the 100th Anniversary, I’ll make that team. You don’t know unless they expand the group.”
Irving has a case. He is easily one of the most skilled ball-handlers in NBA history. He also hit the game-winning shot over Stephen Curry that delivered the Cleveland Cavaliers their 2016 NBA championship. And last year, he joined Kevin Durant and Steve Nash — two top-75 members — in the 50-40-90 club, shooting better than 50% from the field, 40% from three and 90% from downtown over the course of the 2020-21 season.
Irving also believes he was a late scratch from the top-75 list, but wouldn’t go into his reasoning.
“I think I’ll leave it to the conspiracy theorists,” he said. “I think I was on the list, but I guess I’m not, so hey, like I said, maybe I’ll just wait 10 years, 20 years from now, hopefully with a few championships under my belt and talking with you guys on the court after raising a few banners here in (Brooklyn).”
Irving pointed to how much he sacrificed over the course of his life to be a premier superstar guard in the best basketball league on the planet. His resume also includes seven All-Star appearances, 2012 Rookie of the Year, 2014 All-Star MVP and three All-NBA selections. He was also a member of the 2016 Team USA Olympic Men’s basketball team that won gold in Rio de Janeiro. And he was listed alongside NBA legends like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal on the 40 Greatest McDonald’s All Americans list.
“I’m grateful for everybody in our basketball culture recognizing some of the greatest players to play our game,” Irving said. “And If I’m up there with some of those guys, I don’t take it for granted. It was a lot of lonely nights in the gym, a lot of sacrifices of time, being away from my family, being away from friends, not having an ideal childhood that everybody else has had so to say, being a college dropout at Duke and just not being able to live what they say is a normal life: Get a 9-5 and pour into your passion.
“So this right here is a special game and it’s rewarded a lot of people, so if I can etch my name and be up there with some of the greats, I feel like I’m leaving the legacy I want to leave. It’s just a lot of hard work that goes into it so I’m grateful for it.”
Yet Irving knows the work is not done. He is a one-time NBA champion on a LeBron James-led team. He doesn’t have any scoring titles, has not won league MVP, has never been named First Team All-NBA and has had drama follow him since requesting a trade from Cleveland years ago. This season, he did not make his debut until Jan. 5 because of his decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Irving feels snubbed from the top-75 list, but 25 years from now, if there’s a top-100 list, he believes he’ll be a shoo-in — provided he sticks to his own plan of winning championships here in Brooklyn.
“It’s not necessarily about proving to somebody why I deserve to be on that list,” he said. “I know that I have a lot more work to do in this league, and I just want to leave it there, so just let my game speak for itself. I love being skilled, but by the time I leave and retire, I want to be known as a winner. A championship winner. (I) wanna have a few of those things and do it with a great group of guys and a great organization that believes in me, and the rest of it can be written by itself.”