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Rod Strickland on his godson, Kyrie Irving: ‘Thinking different’ is part of his creativity

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Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson

In an interview with Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson, former NBA star Rod Strickland talked about why his godson, Kyrie Irving is so often criticized. Irving, he said, “thinks different” from other NBA players ... and that’s a good thing. That “different” thinking is a big part of his creativity on the court, he argued. You can’t have one without the other.

Strickland, who knows Irving’s father, Drederick, well, helped raise Irving after his mother passed away.

“I know his family and I know where he’s from,” Strickland told Robinson on the “Heavy Live With Scoop B Show.”

That insight, he said, has helped him understand Irving’s path from a three-year-old dribbling a basketball to NBA stardom. Strickland, of course, played 17 years in the NBA himself, including the first two in his native New York with the Knicks. He was All-NBA and league assists leader in 1988.

“Kyrie’s different. You can just watch him play basketball and tell that he’s different. He thinks different, you know? You can’t do the things he does on the court without being creative, so his mind is different,” said Strickland.

The 55-year-old, now program manager for the NBA G League’s professional path, says Irving is often an easy target because his willingness to give voice to that thinking. It’s led him to be ostracized as well as criticized.

“He thinks different and I think people don’t like that. We live in a world now where everybody thinks if you say this and I’m supposed to go along with you and if I’m against that, then I’m wrong. And then you feel that you have to ostracize me or put me down because I’m not speaking the same language you’re speaking,” he added.

Strickland noted as well that he’s advised Irving on how to deal with it ... in short, don’t. Too often, he contended, successful people face the same kind of criticism Irving does. Bottom line, though, is he’s at the top of his field and that’s should drive him, not others’ jealousy.

“It’s like you become successful and then it’s all this judgment and I don’t mean to say this in a wrong way but, you’re judged by people who haven’t accomplished what you accomplished,” he told Robinson.

“And to me, that becomes frustrating but then it’s like, you can’t give your energy to that; and you know, that’s my conversations with Ky like, ‘You can’t give your energy to that because it doesn’t matter…’ because he’s solid.

“What has he done wrong? But not to agree with something they said or may have different views… I mean, he’s one of the top players and I’m even going to get into the numbers because it would be subjective, but I’ll say this to you and they can say whatever they want to say; if you’re talking about skill and talent, you have to tell me another player in NBA history who’s as skilled and talented as Kyrie is.”

Maybe he suggested Isiah Thomas, the Pistons champion and Hall of Famer ... and a Strickland contemporary.

“The great Isiah Thomas who you said you just had…now I’ve seen him and I’ve seen him before the Bad Boys when he first came to the Pistons; I’ve seen him in Chicago at the Push Excel [Basketball Classic], so I’ve seen Isiah do some things that I don’t think a lot of people have seen. So if you want to name Isiah skillswise, cool. But other than that, it’s hard.”

In an earlier interview with Robinson, Thomas agreed regarding Irving’s creativity...

“[Y]ou also look at Kyrie; who is probably the most creative player in the game,” Thomas told Robinson. “He is really about exploring the art and the artistry of the game – I relate to that [smiling]. I admire that. And then when you pair him with another creative mind like a Steve Nash, I just think the Nets are not only going to be exciting, but they have the potential to be just beautiful watching them play every single night.”

Strickland also noted that Irving has succeeded beyond basketball, citing his work in the community. Irving was one of the first NBA players to make a large donation to help feed the hungry in the New York area, then donated PPE to his mother’s Indian tribe in the now hard-hit Dakotas. He also set up a $1.5 million fund to help those WNBA players who couldn’t participate in the “wubble,” the league’s “bubble.”

“He’s done plenty of things in the community, so what’s the issue? So you don’t agree with whatever he agrees with?”