Kyrie Irving remembers when he decided he wanted to play on an NBA court.
“It was fourth grade, I had just gotten done watching the Nets in the Finals. When I knew that this is a dream that I want to fulfill, I had to manifest it, I had to go get it,” Irving said.
Kyrie Irving grew up a Nets fan, bonding with his father, Drederick, a pro baller himself, at Continental Airlines Arena, a 20-minute drive from his home in West Orange, NJ. And as we now know —and as Zach Braziller of The Post details— the draw of home played a big role in his signing with the Nets. In fact, it’s increasingly apparent that coming back to the New York area —and the Nets— was bigger than realized.
Irving in fact signed his contract not at Barclays Center or the HSS Training Center in front of flashing lights, but on a table in the middle of the gym of Roosevelt Middle School in West Orange, surrounded by friends, family. Once he lifted the pen from paper, Irving donned a vintage Nets cap, with the words, “New Jersey” spelled out in red, white and blue.
Everyone was smiling, none more so than Irving. It looked like a dream scenario and in fact Jhamar Youngblood, one of his high school teammates, told Braziller that Irving always wanted to play for the Nets!
He loved the Nets growing up — his favorite player was Jason Kidd — and said it was a dream of his to play for them one day.
Youngblood also recounted a conversation he had with Irving after he won the NBA title for Cleveland in 2016.
Irving and Youngblood met up after Irving won an NBA title with the Cavaliers, and Youngblood recalled him saying the only way that feeling could have been topped was if it happened with his hometown team.
“To see him come back and actually play for the Nets, after all this time — he’s been through so much, has so much experience — it’s so exciting for everyone,” Youngblood said.
Braziller recounts the Jersey childhood of Irving and his father, playing in West Orange during middle school, in Montclair and Elizabeth for high school; working out at a YMHA gym in Union, watching NBA games in East Rutherford. His high school coach famously predicted he’d be the best guard to ever come out of New Jersey.
So now, it seems to his friends like Youngblood that the return to Jersey was always in the stars, that Irving used his free agency to choose his destiny.
“In my heart, I knew I always wanted to play at home,” Irving said after signing. “Home is where my heart is, and it’s always been there, simply because of such a great love that I have for my family and the way I grew up.”
A “way” that included rooting for an NBA team just up the Turnpike.
- Kyrie Irving went from ‘scrawny’ unknown to Nets’ hoops Picasso - Zach Braziller - New York Post