Kyrie Irving has never been one to do things by the book, and that trend continued on Friday. While there is no set "media day" this year because of COVID-19, players are still meeting with reporters for virtual press conferences ahead of the season. Irving, however, decided not to attend and issued a statement instead.
Irving said he did so in order to make sure that his message was "conveyed properly." Here is the full statement:
COVID-19 has impacted us all in many ways, so I pray for the safety and health of our communities domestically and abroad. I am truly excited for the season to start and I am also praying that everyone remains safe and healthy throughout this journey.
Instead of speaking to the media today, I am issuing this statement to ensure that my message is conveyed properly.
I am committed to show up to work everyday, ready to have fun, compete, perform, and win championships alongside my teammates and colleagues in the Nets organization. My goal this season is to let my work on and off the court speak for itself.
Life hit differently this year and it requires us, it requires me, to move differently. So, this is the beginning of that change.
It's not clear yet if this was a one-time thing, or if Irving is planning to avoid the media for the entire season. If it's the latter that will become a storyline as it happens, but we'll obviously just have to wait and see there.
As it stands, this isn't really that big of a deal. Sure, it would have been interesting to hear Irving's thoughts about the Nets ahead of an important and exciting season for them with Kevin Durant healthy and Steve Nash in as their new coach, but it's not the end of the world.
It's also not hard to understand where Irving is coming from. He's always had a contentious relationship with the media, and some of that, to be fair, is his fault. But he's also often faced ridicule and poor treatment just for thinking differently than others. In particular, he was heavily criticized this summer ahead of the league's restart in the bubble.
Irving was one of the players leading a group who were concerned that returning to play would take away from the surging social justice movements across the country. In response, he was labeled a "disruptor" by national media figures, and even saw Kendrick Perkins go on TV and say, "If you take Kyrie Irving's brain and put it in a bird right now, guess what that bird is going to do? It's going to fly backwards. Because Kyrie right now, he's confused."
Earlier this offseason, Irving addressed the criticisms on a podcast with Durant. While he said he didn't feel disrespected, he also admitted that he was in a dark place after dealing with all the backlash. As transcribed by Nets Wire:
Well, I think I heard something, it was Maya Angelou, she said, 'One person standing on the word of God is [a] majority.' And I'm always going to speak on what's right. And I think that it comes at a price, where all of those things that they dress me up as fall off at the wayside of who I truly am. And I don't think it's fair for me to bring that type of energy home and consider it, meaning people talking about me or people addressing me as, 'Hey, what is he doing? Is he's not smarter?' There was something that Kendrick said. He was like, if you put his brain in a bird, it's going to fly backwards.
And we have people like that that I don't have a problem with at all, that's his opinion, nor do I feel disrespected by anything like that. But what I would say to that is, I've come to a place in my life where I serve myself and I serve others, but also I take the criticism serious from people I respect, and people that are on the alignment and wavelength and frequency as I am. I can't take in everybody's burdens and problems and thoughts about me and what I should be doing, what I should not be doing, because I have taken that into consideration.
And it also became a very dark place that I was in. And when people speak about these dark places, we fail to accept that you have to go to therapy, and you have to go get help, because you almost become a prisoner of your own fame, your own life, your own presence, your own stature. And I always wanted to be the strongest in the room, the person that holds everything together, knows I got everything right, like my [expletive] don't stink. But I've also learned from a lot of great individuals that sometimes it's great to lead from the back. And I don't need to feel vindicated for saying what's right, what's already been known.
All things considered, it's not surprising that Irving may have decided he doesn't feel like dealing with the media right away this season. Now, it is part of his job, and at a certain point, people are going to want to hear what he has to say, especially after he and Durant have been on the court together.
But at the same time, people in the media have to consider the fact that they've contributed to this feeling of distrust and frustration, and it's not as if it is coming from nowhere. The relationship between Irving and the media is going to have to be rebuilt, and it's clear the All-Star point guard is set on taking things slowly.