Like the entire basketball world, Kyrie Irving was deeply affected by the death of Kobe Bryant last January. But Uncle Drew was among those who had a special relationship with the Black Mamba, whom he considered a true idol and mentor. A look back at one of their finest clashes, it was in December 2012.
At the time, Kyrie Irving was just a sophomore in the NBA but with his Rookie of the Year status, he has already shown glimpses of his enormous talent to the rest of the Big League. So when Kobe Bryant and his Lakers arrive in Cleveland, Uncle Drew thinks of only one thing, to make an impression against a Californian team that has been struggling since the start of the season. Nine wins and twelve defeats for the band in Kobe, yet accompanied by Pau Gasol as well as rookies Dwight Howard and Steve Nash (although injured in the second game of the season).
Really not famous. If the Cavaliers squat them the lowlands of the Eastern Conference (4-17), the return of injury of Irving (already) after eleven games of absence gives a boost to the team of Ohio, d ‘especially since Kyrie doesn’t look rusty at all. Facing his idol’s team, he has a series of high class actions when he is only 20 years old. Very early kid. In particular, he makes Chris Duhon dance with his dribbles, he is skilful at the shoot and does not forget to distribute the puff well. Under his leadership, it was Cleveland who took the lead against the Lakers in need of a solution. Without Gasol and Nash, Mike D’Antoni’s men are sinking deeper and Kobe’s efforts fall short.
While the Black Mamba scores no less than 42 points (including 16 in the fourth quarter) in total, Kyrie Irving plants 28 with 11 caviar as a bonus. In this match in the match, there are a few one-on-one sequences that send chills to the audience at Quicken Loans Arena. Remember when Uncle Drew challenged Kobe with Team USA in the summer of 2012? Here is the NBA version duel. And Bryant showed Kyrie that night that he didn’t yet have the shoulders to take it individually.
Irving took several fadeaways on the head when he found himself defending on the Mamba and most importantly, the latter locked him on a one-on-one on the other side of the field. In the middle of the third quarter, Uncle Drew tries to hit Kobe with dribbles in the back, feints and other hesitations, all that to take a nasty tarp. This is called a reality check.
A little lesson from a veteran to a youngster who is a little too ambitious. But in the end, it was the nugget of the Cavaliers who came away with the victory by a score of 100-94, also thanks to the fine contributions of C.J. Miles and Anderson Varejao. Kobe can only congratulate Irving at the end of the match, Irving has no choice but to admire Kobe even more, and the two will continue to forge a strong bond in the years to come.
Kyrie Irving has said it often, he has two role models: his father and Kobe Bryant. In his memory box, this big duel of late 2012 against his idol inevitably holds a place of its own, even more so today.