Bill Parcells used to say that people tell you who they are, so listen.
That's particularly easy with Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets' mercurial and uber-talented point guard. He hasn't so much told the world who he is as shouted it, over and over, in conflicts with teammates, LeBron James, and would-be head coaches. What a shame the Nets chose not to pay attention.
The latest example of Irving's me-first focus is his bewildering shot at the media. The tale, for Kyrie, is a familiar one: Underperform or fail to deliver, cast blame elsewhere, double down when challenged, and sour the world around you as you go.
In this case, Irving failed to follow his contractual requirement to talk to the NBA press and was fined $25,000. Then Irving released a statement, which included this gem about the NBA media: "I do not talk to Pawns. My attention is worth more."
Let's get this out of the way: No one is asking you to pity the media. That's, as the Godfather once laid out, the business we've chosen. We get it. It's part of the deal, even if Irving's approach was needlessly disrespectful and disparaging of an entire group of people. It would be like saying, for instance, that every single NBA player is an ego-maniacal locker room cancer more concerned with bathing in the limelight than actually doing the hard work of team success - instead of, let's say, labeling just Kyrie that way.
But again: No one cares about the media, and that's fine. I promise you we've heard worse from people much, much more worthy of an opinion most of us actually care about.
The issue here is that, again, Irving is demonstrating -- telling all of us - who he is. And by connection, who he'll be for the Brooklyn Nets. And that's a self-absorbed, locker room killing, chemistry-crushing malignancy. Kyrie's just being Kyrie. Nothing's new here. Just one more example of the guy picking fights that are bad for him and his team.
He's also making a poor decision. Back in the day, you didn't pick fights with people who bought ink by the barrel. The American trend toward disparaging "the media" has undone that some. But I promise you, it's still a bad idea to alienate the New York media. They don't mess around.
But are we really surprised?
Irving, not long ago, welcomed the Steve Nash head-coaching era while talking with Kevin Durant with this beauty: "And I think it's also going to change the way we see coaches. I don't really see us having a head coach. You know what I mean? KD could be a head coach. I could be a head coach."
Sure. I could be a head coach. But I'm not. Kyrie's not either. Nash is one, and a little public respect would have been a nice bare minimum from the Nets' supposed leaders.
Remember, Kyrie is the guy who forced his way out of a defending NBA champion - and away from LeBron James - without an ounce of understanding. He's a vastly more talented version of John Paxson, not the kingmaker and one-man Finals machine he likes to play on podcasts. Yes, you hit a really big shot, but your "greatness" is largely a product in your NBA career of playing with LeBron James.
How do we know? Because Irving went to a Celtics team coming off an Eastern Conference finals and proceeded to offer up the same egotistical, everyone-is-at-fault-but-me garbage he leveled at the NBA media this week. That team did not make a great leap. The only conference finals they made with Irving on the roster came with him injured and off the floor. And that says it all. Talent is great. But failed talent is a cliche for a reason, and Kyrie, minus drafting off LeBron in Cleveland, has epitomized it at every stop of his career.
There's more, but let's offer just one more example. This guy is so needy for attention that, during an NBA Finals featuring the Los Angeles Lakers and that former teammate LeBron James, he decided it was a good idea to throw shade at the King by suggesting LeBron wasn't a big-shot maker Kyrie could trust.
Even a pawn couldn't make this stuff up.
Was it wrong, self-centered, poorly timed and hurtful? Yes, clearly, even before LeBron said as much in a recent interview.
Irving hasn't learned a thing or changed an ounce. That's why his shots at the media matter. Not because we do, but because Irving is still telling us who he is. If you listen, you'll hear a guy who spews disrespect in all directions without an ounce of self-awareness, someone whose flat-earth silliness reflected a deeper need to yank all the attention his way.
Good luck pairing that with Kevin Durant, an uber-talented but often sensitive superstar. Kyrie's the guy you liked to drink beers with in college: Fun dude, until you live together.
A reality of the NBA that isn't sexy, and doesn't fit neatly into our narratives or the joy we get from watching the game, still holds: To win, guys have to like each other -- or at least respect one another. Locker rooms matter, whether it's last year's Clippers (in a bad way) or the Heat (in a Finals-run kind of way).
Kyrie isn't just unlikable. He's constantly and openly disrespectful. To the media, sure, but to LeBron, to Hall of Fame player and new head coach Steve Nash, to Celtics teammates he would routinely talk down to when he was in Boston.
And those were the public facts. Imagine this guy, who hides from the press because he can't answer for his own self-inflicted mistakes, behind the scenes with teammates when things get rough?
Irving has told us who he is, and if you're listening, you can also hear what the future likely sounds like for the Nets: Fascinating, promising, problematic and ultimately wildly unsuccessful.
That's the Kyrie Iriving story, one that's already going strong in Brooklyn.