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Kyrie Irving talks legacy, passion for game with ESPN

Brooklyn Nets v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Nets success in Milwaukee and Minneapolis is due to a number of factors, but one constant has been Kyrie Irving’s game. After scoring 23 vs. the Bucks, he put up 26 vs. the Timberwolves. More importantly, he looked like he is already in mid-season form.

Irving also seems thoroughly committed to the game at hand and is talking more about his legacy. He turned 30 during last season and is now the father of three children. It’s time.

“I have great aspirations of leaving a legacy in this league and however many years that takes me is — that’s laid out [ahead of me], but in the meantime, I just want to build with people in this industry and win together,” Irving told Nick Friedell of ESPN Wednesday. “I want this to feel like a dream that we all can share. And that’s not just only with my Nets, but people that we’re going to be going against. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a fun ride. So I’m looking forward to that enjoyment as well, more importantly.”

He also sees the same commitment up and down the roster and staff directory.

“I’ll tell you right now — it extends all the way up,” Irving told ESPN. “From Joe [Tsai] all the way to the 16th guy on the team. We all can feel it because we all have a piece in our success. And we all have a piece in when we fail. So that accountability that we continue to hold for each other is definitely something that we’re going to continue to build on, and I think the results will speak for themselves.”

Irving spoke as well about his relationship with Ben Simmons who like him has been the center of controversy. He told Friedell about his advice.

“This is an emotional time in our world. People attack other people for what they believe in, their jobs, whatever it is. So harsh criticism is part of it, but what’s justified is how you respond. And how you deal with it. ...” he said. “The moment he wakes up and he realizes like, ‘That’s not actually my life. I have a loving, supportive system around me of people that care about me, and these are people that I can go to for honest answers.’”

Irving, of course, had a difficult season in 2021-22, playing only 29 games when he refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine despite a city mandate. He admits he made some mistakes, has some regrets but did not detail them.

“I’d be lying to you as a human being [if I said I didn’t],” he told Friedell about last season. “I think we all think about times we could have made better decisions, and times we wish we could have done things differently and I feel the same way at times throughout my life. ... I legitimately just want to play the long game and not put too much pressure on myself or the people that I’m around.”

He also talked about how much he missed the game when banished.

“I don’t ever leave it. (Laughs). I don’t ever leave it. I go everywhere with it,” he said of the game.

Irving spoke as well about his contract situation. He’s in the final year of his initial four-year deal signed in 2019. He could become a free agent in the summer ... or he and the Nets could come to an agreement about an extension.

“Well, I’m staying patient and letting those things play out, honestly. Because the best thing I can do right now is just build sustainable relationships and be there for people that go on the court and off the court,” he said.

“And that’s going to be a unique task this year. Eliminating those distractions of thinking about things that I know are either in the future or they are not, or hoping — I don’t want to be in that phase. I just want to be present, live every day as God has given it to me and legitimately just have fun with this profession.

“It’s a heck of a business, ain’t it?”