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Key takeaway from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving podcast? They’re best friends

Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Tuesday is Kevin Durant’s 32nd birthday and he reversed the tradition by giving Nets fans a big present in his first of his “The Etcs” podcast with Kevin Durant”, a conversation between him and Kyrie Irving. It’s the first time the Nets two superstars have done something like this since they joined Brooklyn in June 2019.

There was a lot to digest in the hour-long discussion, but the key takeaway is that they are best friends who speak with each other daily ... and have big plans for Brooklyn.

In fact, the two revealed that their friendship, which may have blossomed in Rio de Janiero during the 2016 Olympics, actually goes back to 2011-12 and the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League.

“Me and Kyrie have a mutual friend in Jeff Rogers who worked at Nike. He was our grassroots guy,” Durant said. “Over time once Ky got into the league Jeff just happened to throw us in the text one night.

“We were playing the Cavs…and me looking at it like we’re No. 1 in the West, we’re playing against a (crappy) Cavs team – this is before I’d seen the light on Kyrie Irving – and I get this text from Jeff and Ky, and Ky was straight up serious. I’m joking around thinking it’s just another game, and Ky was so locked-in, like “We’re going to see tomorrow.” It wasn’t what’s up little bro, big bro; it’s like alright, I’m going to see what’s up tomorrow.”

By 2019, the two were thinking about joining forces and KD finally cleared up the mystery of that video moment captured in the bowels of the Spectrum Center in Charlotte during All-Star Weekend in February.

There were reports the two were talking about teaming up ... with the Knicks. Pundits got it half right.

“That’s when it was solidified that we were going somewhere,” said Durant. “They didn’t know it for a fact where it was, but it was somewhere.”

It led to what Irving called, “one of the biggest surprise moves in NBA history. Nobody ever thought it would happen.”

The lead-up to that decision, the two agreed, was the growth in their friendship.

“Once we started to kick in and talk about what we’d like to do outside of the game and who our family started to meet, and it just became easy, you know? And obviously the common ground is how we hoop and how we love the game of basketball. But it just branched off from there,” Durant said.

KD detailed the type of discussion the two would have.

“And we started to (talk) every day on FaceTime. What do you think about this shot? What’d you think about this move that I did in this game? How about you, when Brad (Stevens) takes you out, it was six minutes to go on the first quarter, how you approach the game coming back? We’d have these types of conversations all day, every day. And it just grew from there. It was organic. It wasn’t something that you can pinpoint and say this was the moment. It just happened.”

Irving also spoke about his other great friendship in the NBA firmament, the one he had with the late Kobe Bryant. Irving was invited to join the select team with Team USA in 2012, part of the practice squad helping the first team prepare for the London Olympics.

After practice one day, Irving walked in Kobe’s direction despite being really nervous.

“I walk over there and my heart’s pounding, bro. I don’t know why,” Irving told Durant. “And I’m like, I’m about to go talk with Kobe. I’m like, honestly, I’d beat you one-on-one bro. And I practiced the line in my head. Like when I get the chance Kobe, I could beat you one-on-one. I practiced in the mirror before I got there.”

Irving, 20 years old at the time, straight-faced challenged Bryant, then 33 and coming off a season where he averaged 27.9, 5.4 and 4.6.

“I’m going to go straight up like Kobe, man. Like I could beat you one-on-one,” said Irving, then on the 21-win Cavaliers. “Honestly we should get this one on one game. Honestly I think you can’t guard me. I kind of went off script. And then Duke Blue Planet [from the university] was right there and they just captured the whole thing, the exchange.”

Irving later learned of Bryant’s reaction to their 2012 conversation. The Lakers superstar was at a restaurant with his business team and spoke about the interaction.

“He was like ‘man, this mother f-er, this little kid Kyrie, he has the nerve to come up and talk to me?’” Irving recalled. “Mind you in any other situation, Kobe would’ve just strapped up his shoes, but I think he also had a mutual respect for me at that point early on in my life where it was like you know, $50,000 next year, let’s do it. We never got a chance to play, but after that point, I just studied him a lot more. My respect grew.”

Irving spoke as well about how he feels he’s been misrepresented by the media.

“I’ve been out and visible at a certain time as a young man,” Irving explained. “I’ve been in front of the cameras. You could go back and watch a lot of the past history of videos, whether it be some of the brand partnerships I’ve had or even some of the mistakes I’ve made in my life publicly, or the media following every single word and hanging on every single word. It becomes the narrative or the picture of me.”

Now, he said, he’s settled, matured in the New York area, where he grew up, in both the tony suburb of West Orange and public housing in the Bronx. He spoke as well of the court as his respite, his “sacred place.”

“Honestly, I tell you, I grew up in this business very differently than everyone else,” Irving said. “Where my foundation is, I’m home most of the time. I’m either reading books, watching documentaries, chilling at home, conversing with some family. My life has shifted.

“When I express myself creatively, artistically — that’s basketball. I’m in a meditative state when I’m out there playing. I feel like there isn’t much that could get to me when I’m in that mode, whether I’m playing well or I’m playing bad, it’s such a sacred place for me.”

Bottom line for him?

“When I come out into the world as Ky or as just a human being, I don’t want to be that person that puts on that cape on the court,” Irving said. “I’m me in terms of how I live my life and whether I choose to invite people into it, that’s up to me.”

The two also talked about their hopes for next season.

“Doing it with a family member (will be great), not just a friend, somebody you just kick it with and you’re like let’s go hoop today and you see them only at the arena. But the synergy is connected to who we are as people first,” said Irving.

“I know it’s meant for me to share that greatness not only with myself but others now. Before it used to be “let me get as many points let me get as many assists as I can.” Now I want to bring a championship with my family to Brooklyn, New York, New Jersey, DC. Then we have the biggest parade ever.”

The two will continue their conversation next Tuesday on the same podcast.