If you thought that 2012 was one crazy year in the world of Cleveland Sports, 2013 proved that there is rarely a dull moment. There were good times and bad, hirings and firings, wins and losses, and apperances in postseasons and courtrooms. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last five years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the 10 biggest sports stories to grace our local sports scene over the last 12 months. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. Do enjoy.
Kyrie Irving was backstage, waiting to receive an award in front of a ballroom full of Cleveland fans, when his phone began vibrating uncontrollably. Incoming calls and text messages lit the homescreen up like The Q-Tube, a river of congratulations flowing in as if a dam was unhinged. The second-year point guard, having just played in his 82nd game at just 20 years of age, was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team. The chances of Irving being named to the exclusive group were very high. Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose had yet to play in a game after succumbing to a knee injury. Would-be competition aside, Irving’s numbers and all-around style of play—the game-winning shots, the jaw-dropping handles and the head-spinning highlights—had “All-Star” scribbled all over it. But once the reserves were announced on live television, all bets were off—Irving’s cell battery would quickly be put to the test.
Irving received a text message from the phone number owned by Duke’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski, though the point guard would joke that it was probably sent by an assistant. The first outbound calls Irving would make, once his phone would allow, would be to his girlfriend at the time as well as his father, Drederick. Those who were present, Cavs general manager Chris Grant and then head coach Byron Scott (in addition to the litany of Cavs employees on hand) were quickly offering prideful hugs. With that, the point guard immediately joined elite company by becoming the sixth-youngest player in NBA history to be an All-Star, the seventh under 21 years old—Kobe Bryant in 1998, LeBron James in 2005, Magic Johnson in 1980, Kevin Garnett in 1997, Isiah Thomas in 1982, and Shaquille O’Neal in 1993 being the others.
The adulation on this late-January evening would simply serve to pave the path to what would ultimately be Irving’s coming out party, at least to those who had yet to tune in and watch the kid do his thing. Anyone who would tune into All-Star weekend, the game as well as all of the ancillary items, would soon be inundated with all things Kyrie. While there would be talk regarding how many minutes the Cavaliers’ young star should log, and if he should take part in any of the other events at all, the shifty point guard would go on to log a crazy amount of minutes in the Rising Stars Challenge, ultimately setting the stage for one of the weekend’s many highlights as Irving would shatter the ankles of fellow sophomore Brandon Knight.As if this would not be enough, Irving—mostly known for his double team-splitting dribbles and leg-tangling drives—quietly entered the three-point shootout, only to win the whole damn thing. One by one, Irving would take out his combatants, finally dropping 23 points on San Antonio’s Matt Bonner, and walking away with yet another piece of hardware for his ever-growing mantle.
During the actual All-Star game, when he wasn’t rubbing elbows with pop stars and former NBA greats, Irving dazzled with an array of behind-the-back dribbles, spin moves and crisp passes. He scored 15 points while adding three rebounds, four assists, and a two-handed dunk for good measure. Reggie Miller would lob plenty of praise; Chris Webber would take a break from pumping up his usual array of forwards and centers to commend Irving. After a bevy of pictures with friends and coaches and local rap stars and team owners, Irving sat at a table with his three-point championship trophy in front of him and declared that all of his accomplishments, all of his awards—All-Star weekend or not—would be dedicated to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In a way, this weekend served as a high point in what would later become a bit of a roller coaster for Irving. The second half of the season left a lot to be desired, both on the court and behind the scenes. Irving’s numbers took a hit as did his public relations image following bouts with poor body language, questionable leadership skills and the night he left the court during what was Fan Appreciation Night. The early portions of the 2013-14 season have been marred with some early issues, but appears to have taken a turn for the better, Irving winning another award and the Cavaliers on an upswing when it comes to their play and the standings.
As all of the celebrations were going on this past January, after the phone calls and text messages began to slow down in frequency, Byron Scott was quick to keep his guard grounded, telling him that the next step, his next individual goal, should be getting voted in to the game by fans rather than being invited along as a reserve. The Cavaliers, amidst all of the recent turmoil, have made it very apparent, be it through quotes to the media or chatter behind the scenes, that Irving—despite all of his accomplishments thus far—has plenty of work to do if he is to ever be the complete player he yearns to be. By all indications and present vote tabulations, when the NBA reconvenes for their annual All-Star weekend in February, this time in New Orleans, Louisiana, Irving will once again be representing the Clevelnad Cavaliers and the Eastern Conference—this time, as a starter.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)