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A Hater’s Guide: Why Kyrie Irving’s 50-40-90 season should be universally celebrated

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Chicago Bulls v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Kyrie Irving’s 2020-21 season was historic. Period.

He was only the 4th player in NBA history to shoot 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from the three-point line and 90 percent from the free-throw line while averaging at least 25 points per game.

Irving joins teammate Kevin Durant (2012-13) as well as Steph Curry (2015-16) and Larry Bird (1986-87 & 1987-88) in accomplishing this feat; and only 9 other players in the history of the game to shoot 50-40-90 in a season (Nets head coach Steve Nash, 4x, among the other 9 players).

Me: Bang. What an incredible feat!

Haters:

Sigh.

What makes Irving’s mark so impressive? Well, some thoughts:

SHOOTER SHOT: Kyrie averaged 20.1 FGAs per game, the second most attempts per game of his career; with seven of those attempts coming from three (again, the second best mark of his career).

At that volume, no matter how many games you play, that’s an incredible accomplishment.

I’m not here to trash Tony Snell, but there’s a reason we aren’t talking about his 50-50-100 season; he only shot 11 free throws in 47 games and pretty much shot as many threes (109 total) all season as Steph Curry does in a week.

The volume, the result - it’s all very, very impressive what Irving accomplished in 54 games.

OH, THE INSTABILITY: This season the Nets ran out 37 different starting lineups, of which Irving played with 23 different starting lineups, with 19 different players starting a game for the Nets this season, according to the great Tom Dowd. Bird played with 8 different starting lineups in 1986-87, Durant played with just 5 different starting lineups in 2012-13 and Curry played with 10 different starting lineups in 2015-16.

That’s wild.

Irving started 54 games this season and almost half of those games (23 games) were with a different starting lineup.

Imagine walking into work every day and being like “yeah, Steve does that, I do this and Kevin is responsible for the other...” - and then, all of a sudden, “oh, I guess I’m going to do that today, Steve is going to do this and - Bob, nice to meet you Bob, is going to do other...”

Cool, OK, now I’m used to...oh, it’s changing again next week?

That would drive me crazy.

THE LARRY BIRD ASTERISK?: This does not diminish anything that Bird has accomplished, buuuut, remember that the times they have-a-changed. Bird took just three threes per game in his two seasons of completing the 50-40-90-25 seasons. Again, this doesn’t diminish anything, and I’m fully aware that the game was different “back then,” but I suppose you could asterisk Bird’s feat - Kyrie made (2.8) nearly as many threes per game as Bird attempted.

DON’T TAKE IT FROM ME: What do two of the best players of all time think about what Irving did this season? Glad you asked. Listen up, people on Twitter who never played in the NBA:

“Kyrie was incredible this year. [He was] so efficient and such a talented player who just makes incredible shots every night. To be able to make those shots, create the space to take those shots, to convert at such an efficient rate is incredible,” said Nash on Irving’s accomplishment. “Remarkable player. Remarkable accomplishment and I’m really proud that I can see it first hand.”

“Phenomenal season from Kai. He’s a guy who can get it from anywhere on the floor at any time. At that size, it’s remarkable. Point guards that get 50-40-90 are so much more impressive to me,” said Durant on Irving joining the 50-40-90 club. “Kai, Steph, Steve do it, I’m sure there’s more, but those three stand out to me. Small guys that get to the paint from the middy, three, free throw line; they can do it all. I’m very, very happy for Kyrie and I’m sure this won’t be his last time.”

Finally...

JUST WATCH:

There’s this sense that some people - and I’m not calling out anyone in particular here, I promise - just don’t like Kyrie Irving.

But that still doesn’t take away from the incredible, historic season that he had.

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