Skip to content Skip to footer

The Kyrie Irving brand is stronger than ever after year one in Boston

“Jab jab. Tween the legs. Behind the back. Step baaaaack. Give me twoooo!”

That’s basically how each of Filay’s Kyrie highlights start, and it’s frankly always embarrassing to see the other guy on the floor… Just ask Brandon Knight.

And yet despite the phenomenal highlights Irving has given us throughout his career, and especially in his first season with Boston, we unfortunately won’t be able to see him compete in the playoffs this year.

After undergoing a “minimally invasive” knee-surgery that expected him to return to the court by the playoffs, a bacterial infection has officially sidelined Uncle Drew for the remainder of the season.

For those unfamiliar with the situation, Irving’s surgery kills all the hype from the Kyrie-LeBron matchup fans have been drooling over since the beginning of the season.

Lebron James Laughing GIF by NBA - Find & Share on GIPHY

After three straight trips to the Finals, shit hit the fan this past summer when Kyrie officially requested a trade from the Cavs in order to become more of a “focal point.” Ultimately, Irving decided he no longer wanted to play second fiddle to LeBron James.

Days later, Cleveland sent the young superstar guard to the Boston Celtics, one of the NBA’s largest markets and historically-winning franchises in league history. And while people were initially skeptical of Kyrie’s decision, the move to Boston has paid off tremendously for his career both on and off the court.

Flashy handles, an ankle-breaking killer crossover, and a cold-blooded jumper have established Kyrie as one of the most exciting players the basketball world has seen. Couple that with his friendly personality and well-spoken demeanor and lo and behold, you have one of the most marketable players in today’s NBA.

Since he was drafted as the number one overall pick out of Duke in 2011, Kyrie has made a career out of exposing defenders.

As the only beacon of hope on a struggling Cavs team, Irving exploded onto the national spotlight when LeBron announced his return to Cleveland in 2014. And of course, with LeBron’s arrival came the media, and a slew of companies who viewed Kyrie as a potential ambassador to drive their brands forward.

Cleveland Cavaliers #1 GIF by NBA - Find & Share on GIPHY

However, moving from Cleveland to Boston has indubitably placed Kyrie further under the national spotlight. Being LeBron’s best running mate generates its own type of buzz, but shouldering a historically successful franchise in one of the largest markets in the NBA has cemented Irving’s stardom.

Enter Nike, who revealed the Kyrie 1s four years ago and haven’t looked back since. With a multitude of various colorways and designs, the Kyrie 1s hit the market for a retail price of $110 USD.

Irving himself debuted them against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in December 2014, and also happened to drop 37 points and the game winning shot for the Cleveland dub.

Basketball fans are currently waiting for Nike to release the Kyrie 5s this year. And because he’s not directly competing against LeBron and his sneakers like he did in Cleveland, some critics speculated Kyrie’s decision to leave was influenced by the cannibalization of their respective sneaker lines.

However in addition to Nike, Pepsi is another company that partnered with Irving early in his career. Since 2012, Pepsi has been starring Kyrie as “Uncle Drew,” an old grandpa who’s got game.

The first video went viral, amassing 10 million views in less than a month.

It inspired Pepsi to release a couple of more webisodes, with guest appearances from the likes of Kevin Love and Nate Robinson. Uncle Drew became immortalized, and the phrase “don’t reach young blood” evolved into a generational motto.

Now, Pepsi has partnered with Temple Hill Entertainment to produce a film for the big screen. Uncle Drew will hit the theaters this June with a balling cast: Shaquille O’Neal, Lisa Leslie, Lil Rel Howery, and Reggie Miller are just a few of the names to act alongside Irving.

Uncle Drew places Kyrie on a list with Shaq, LeBron, KD, and MJ as NBA players who’ve tackled Hollywood on the screen. When seeing the type of impact Space Jam has had on the culture, Irving has an opportunity to further imprint himself onto the rising generation this summer.

However all things considered, it’s a damn shame to see Uncle Drew go down his first year in Boston when he was having such a terrific year both on and off the floor.

But when accounting for the Celtics’ trajectory as one of the most dangerous teams for years to come, I get the feeling that this is just the beginning for both Kyrie’s on and off-court endeavors.

The Uncle Drew story wouldn’t be exciting without setbacks here and there, so expect even more big things for Kyrie in the years to come.

Celtics’ Jaylen Brown speaks facts on institutional racism, Trump, and Kaepernick

Jaylen Brown, the second year forward for the Boston Celtics, is an intriguing young talent on one of the NBA’s best teams, but it’s his poise and composure off the court that’s all the more notable.

When he entered the 2016 NBA Draft as a freshman out of Cal many talent evaluators deemed Brown “too smart for the league,” a statement laden with euphemism.

Brown, who taught himself the piano, is fluent in Spanish, and learning Arabic, gave an expansive interview to The Guardian ahead of the Celtics’ game in London against the 76ers on Thursday.

Brown spoke with Donald McRae about race relations in America, the Trump administration, the recent suicide of his best childhood friend, and the oppressive nature of sports.

It’s the kind of interview that reminds you that athletes are not monolithic. The sports world is filled with fascinating and thoughtful minds who are all too often silenced or told to “stick to sports.”

Here are some of the best excerpts from Brown’s Guardian interview.

On experiencing racism

Brown told McRae of his upbringing in Marietta, Georgia and witnessing racism against him in both society and in the context of basketball.

“Racism definitely still exists in the South. I’ve experienced it through basketball. I’ve had people call me the n-word. I’ve had people come to basketball games dressed in monkey suits with a jersey on. I’ve had people paint their face black at my games. I’ve had people throw bananas in the stands.”

The Celtics forward conceded that while America has progressed a lot since the Jim Crow era, racism is still prevalent across the country. Racism is more veiled and complicated than it was in a bygone era, but the Trump administration has brought it back to the forefront of American society.

“Racism definitely exists across America today. Of course it’s changed a lot – and my opportunities are far greater than they would have been 50 years ago. So some people think racism has dissipated or no longer exists. But it’s hidden in more strategic places. You have less people coming to your face and telling you certain things. But [Donald] Trump has made it a lot more acceptable for racists to speak their minds.”

Brown then went on to describe how his own studies at Cal informed his understanding of institutional racism, specifically within the education system.

“It wounds you. But when I got older and went to the University of California [Berkeley] I learnt about a more subtle racism and how it filters across our education system through tracking, hidden curriculums, social stratification and things I had no idea of before. I was really emotional – because one of the most subtle but aggressive ways racism exists is through our education system.”

On socioeconomic privilege

Instead of turning his back on his community upon being drafted 3rd overall, showered with accolades, and a multi-million dollar salary, Brown says that getting this success has only made him more aware of those with less opportunity than him.

“Even though I’ve ended up in a great place, who is to say where I would’ve been without basketball? It makes me feel for my friends. And my little brothers or cousins have no idea how their social mobility is being shaped. I wish more and more that I can explain it to them. Just because I’m the outlier in my neighborhood who managed to avoid the barriers set up to keep the privileged in privilege, and the poor still poor, why should I forget about the people who didn’t have the same chance as me?”

On Kaepernick’s protest and sports being a “mechanism of control”

When asked about Colin Kaepernick’s protest, Brown spoke passionately about how Kaepernick has shined light on an important issue in America.

“It was peaceful and successful. It made people think. It made people angry. It made people want to talk. Often everybody is comfortable with their role in life and they forget about the people who are uncomfortable. So for Colin to put his career on the line, and sacrifice himself, was amazing. But Colin was fed up with the police brutality and pure racism. He speaks for many people in this country – including me.

“We’re having some of the same problems we had 50 years ago. Some things have changed a lot but other factors are deeply embedded in our society. It takes protests like Kaepernick’s to make people uncomfortable and aware of these hidden injustices. People are now a lot more aware, engaged and united in our culture. It takes a special person like Kaepernick to force these changes – because often reporters and fans say: ‘If you’re an athlete I don’t want you to say anything. You should be happy you’re making x amount of money playing sport. You should be saluting America instead of critiquing it.’ That’s our society.

Brown went further to describe how sports functions as a way of hiding some of the ills of society.

“That’s the reality because sports is a mechanism of control. If people didn’t have sports they would be a lot more disappointed with their role in society. There would be a lot more anger or stress about the injustice of poverty and hunger. Sports is a way to channel our energy into something positive. Without sports who knows what half of these kids would be doing?”

On being “too smart for the league”

One anonymous NBA executive labeled Brown “too smart” to play in the NBA in a clearly veiled statement with the idea that (specifically Black) athletes shouldn’t be thinking and instead just playing.

Brown obviously disagrees with this and spoke of the racist implication therein.

“But I disagree that an athlete can’t be intelligent. Some people think that, in basketball, we have a bunch of masculine adults who don’t know how to control themselves. They’re feeble-minded and can’t engage or articulate ideas. That’s a narrative they keep trying to paint. We’re trying to change it because that statement definitely has a racist undertone.”

On being an Arsenal fan (woohoo)

On a lighter note, Brown talked about his appreciation of British culture, specifically grime music and soccer. He told McRae that he follows Arsenal, knows Thierry Henry, and hopes to get out on the Emirates Stadium pitch.

“I really like Arsenal too. I like their tradition, and their diehard fans. I hope to see them in London. I think Thierry Henry is going to be there so I’ll just hit him up and see if I can get some access to the [stadium] tour, get some shots on the field. Last summer I became really close with Thierry. I got to talk to him and we keep up with each other and he gives me advice – about sports and life. He’s one of the all-time greats.”

Welcome to the misery of being a gooner, Jaylen!

In all seriousness, it’s pretty awesome to see a young athlete (Brown turned just 21 in October) speak so candidly and eloquently about some truly complicated things. Good on Jaylen Brown and I’m hype to see where his curiosity take him next.

Summer League was lit. Here’s five takeaways from Las Vegas.

The Los Angeles Lakers are champions… of the Summer League.

The Lakers topped the Portland Trailblazers Monday night sans MVP Lonzo Ball, capping an interesting two weeks in Las Vegas.

While it’s tough to read too much into the play during Summer League, several top prospects shined and made it clear they will be ready to put their stamp on the league in the upcoming season. We also learned some teams may have fucked up.

Here are five takeaway’s from the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League.

The Knicks fucked up… again.

Mavericks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. is going to be a beast. From highlight reel dunks to a silky smooth jumper, Smith looks like a bonafide star.

The Knicks drafted Frank Ntilikina who might turn out to be a nice player but he will never electrify the Garden like Smith could have.

Smith and Porzingis would have formed an awesome young duo that Knicks fans could get excited about. He was sitting right there for them and they blew it.

Lonzo Ball might just revolutionize the game of basketball.

Lonzo’s potential is clear, his vision and playmaking ability will make him an effective point guard for years.

But the long hit-ahead passes are something we haven’t seen from a point guard before and if teams are slow to get back he will make them pay.

Instead of pounding the ball like Chris Paul or Kyrie Irving, Lonzo always has his head up ready to fire a pass.

Jayson Tatum is ready right to make an impact right now.

From the Dirk fallaway jumper to his solid handles, Tatum clearly has the juice to make an impact in the league from day one, especially on the offensive end.

In Summer League Tatum was consistently able to post up smaller players and shoot over them. He also showed some catch-and-shoot ability.

Tatum is going to average 20 points per game in this league for a long time.

How will all the Suns’ young guys fit together?

After drafting Josh Jackson, the Suns are hoping they have added a significant piece to their roster. But Jackson didn’t kill it in Summer League and his jumper is still broken.

Outside of Devin Booker, the Suns have a ton of young guys who are still projects and years away from contributing night to night in the NBA.

They better hope one of their young guys pops this year or they’ll find themselves back in the top 5 of the lottery.

“Fuck Gordon Hayward, we have Donovan Mitchell.”

This must be what Utah Jazz fans are saying to each other.

After Hayward left in free agency, Mitchell shined in Summer League, draining threes, getting to the rim, and playing physical defense.

Mitchell has clear upside and should be a solid combo guard for years to come.

Gordon Hayward made the best career decision by joining the Celtics

The Utah Jazz did everything right. They collected assets, developed a winning culture and became one of the best teams in the NBA. But in the end, the allure of Boston and playing for Celtics coach Brad Stephens proved to be too much for the Jazz to compete with.

Gordon Hayward inked a 4 year, $128 million dollar deal with the Celtics last night.

The NBA is a brutal zero-sum league and now the Jazz are left out in the wind, hoping they can sign Rudy freaking Gay. It’s hard to blame Hayward for going to the Eastern Conference, where he will surely make the All-Star team every year and play in the conference finals.

But, man, the Jazz were building something with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors and it would have been interesting to see how Ricky Rubio and Hayward played in Quinn Snyder’s system.

Now it’s back to square one for the Jazz, who aren’t a free agent destination but have enough talent to be a fringe playoff team, which will make the path to signing a superstar very difficult. Being mediocre in the NBA is fine but for a small market franchise it is important to have several shots at top-5 picks in the draft. Finding a franchise player at the end of the lottery is doable but not easy. The Jazz don’t appear willing to bottom out and tank for a high draft pick making their road back to 50-win seasons very tough.

The Celtics, on the other hand, are freaking stoked. Hayward and Stephens are back together and we’ll see if they can accomplish what eluded them at Butler. These two go way back.

When Hayward was a no-name 9th grader at a small Indiana high school, Stephens, then the Butler University coach, saw something in him. When Hayward developed and the bigger schools came calling, he stayed loyal to Stephens and the small Indianapolis university.

Hayward is a relentless worker who improves his game and his conditioning every summer. His ball handling ability and his physique are light-years beyond what they were when he entered the league.

Hayward, a solid floor spacer and secondary playmaker, should fit seamlessly into Boston’s egalitarian offense. Additionally, he has developed his defense and rebounding which was on full display in Utah’s first-round series last year against the Clippers.

Hayward grabbed some tremendous rebounds in traffic and came up with some crucial stops, often times being switched onto Chris Paul.

One would also have to assume that the NBA is very happy about this signing. It helps balance out the league and will make the Celtics a viable threat to the Cavs in the East. But does this close the gap with LeBron?

Not even close. In any match-up with the Cavs, Cleveland has the best two players on the court in James and Irving. Granted, the Celtics will have a nice set of wing players to throw at LeBron, but there is no way he sees Hayward’s signing as a threat to his Eastern Conference supremacy.

The Celtics should look to cash in on Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Marcus Smart right now. Go out and find some players with size who are capable rebounders. The Cavs and Wizards will continue to punish them inside if they don’t.

Boston is becoming quite the free agent destination. In back-to-back summers they have landed Al Horford and now Hayward. Both players are relatively young and fit their style perfectly. The Celtics don’t have any cap space left for next summer but they have a plethora of trade assets that almost any team would find intriguing.

Now GM Danny Ainge needs to get back to work to fill out this roster. But hey, at least he didn’t come up completely empty this summer.

Celtics fans have learned to trust Danny Ainge, but this shit is testing us

Yesterday morning, the Celtics and 76ers finalized a deal that would send the 1st overall pick in the 2017 Draft from Boston to Philly in exchange for the 3rd overall pick and a first-round pick that belongs to the Lakers in 2018.

Thus continues Celtics general manager Danny Ainge’s never-ending obsession with stockpiling draft picks and assets, but this move raises a lot more questions than answers.

As a Celtics fan, I’ve learned to trust Danny Ainge. He compiled the Big 3 of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett, essentially out of nothing, propelling the Celtics to their first O’Brien Trophy since the 80’s.

When Ray Allen jetted for Miami (I’m still sick) that Celtics squad turned stale and old.

Ainge once again pulled a masterstroke by selling some old ass parts to the Nets for that franchise’s entire future. The exact trade is pretty ridiculous, here are the details from the official Nets press release at the time,

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and D.J. White from the Boston Celtics in exchange for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans and three first round draft picks (2014, 2016 and 2018), as well as the right to swap first round picks in 2017.

I trusted Danny Ainge that same summer when he traded Doc Rivers, his own championship coach, to the Clippers for an unprotected first-round pick.

And then even though Brad Stevens looks like a high-school science teacher and was hired from a college I had never heard of before 2010, I believed that Danny Ainge knew what he was doing when he hired him.

But now Ainge has traded the number 1 overall pick, which by all accounts will be Washington freshman point guard Markelle Fultz, and I’m pretty fucking skeptical.

Danny Ainge told reporters after officially announcing the trade,

“I think even before the lottery, we’ve been evaluating these kids for a couple years, and we felt like it was very close with the top handful of players, and we still feel that way. We think there’s a really good chance the player we’ll take at 3 is the same player we would have taken at 1. So this was a great opportunity to acquire an impactful asset.”

This doesn’t make a lot of sense. Before Monday, the Celtics had only worked out Fultz. Every sign seemed to point to the fact that Fultz was the Celtics guy, until news quickly leaked last Friday that they were considering Kansas swingman Josh Jackson with the first pick, then suddenly the trade with the 76ers was as good as done.

But why?

Josh Jackson seems awesome and everyone pretty much thinks he’ll be a legitimately good player in the league, but experts’ projections for Fultz are much more impressive.

According to The Vertical’s Chris Mannix, one league exec described Fultz as a “transformative player” and the consensus is that he is the best player in this draft by far.

Even if Danny Ainge has a different evaluation of Fultz than the entire rest of the league, even if he is so sold on Josh Jackson, why take a player that plays the exact same position as the player you took at the same pick in the draft last year?

Jaylen Brown, an athletic wing and third pick in last year’s draft, seems like a really interesting prospect, which makes trading down away from the 1st pick to take Josh Jackson even more nonsensical.

What is the point of having all these assets, and the list of future picks is truly ridiculous, if you just use them to acquire more picks?

The only way this makes sense is if Danny Ainge plans on trading a bunch of these assets for a team-changing, All-Star caliber player.

Maybe Ainge thinks he can get Jimmy Butler, Paul George, or even Kristaps Porzingis, but all those trades have complications and every team in the league will be lining up to vie for these guys.

Of course, there’s still a lot of parts to move around before the draft on Thursday. It feels like a new massive story breaks every hour now (gotta keep Woj’s twitter open).

With free agency opening up in July, the Celtics have been linked with names like Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin, perhaps Danny Ainge has multiple aces up his sleeve.

Over all these years, I’ve learned to trust Danny Ainge, but I’ve never been so skeptical about the larger plan in Boston.

Regardless, this shit is fun (unless you’re a Knicks fan, I’m sorry y’all).

As teams react to the Warriors and how easily they just washed LeBron, these next couple days and weeks will effectively define the NBA of the future.