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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.