Kyrie Irving knows, as well as anyone, the value of being an All-Star – how the status validates on-court performance, sells shoes and can be flipped for even more exposure. Irving is comfortable in that environment, promoting his brand at four All-Star weekends already and winning All-Star game MVP in 2014 in New Orleans.
He was back in New Orleans for this year’s All-Star game when he was asked to name his all-time All-Star team.
As Irving announced his team — he was responding to a question — he said “I’d put MJ at the 1, Kobe at the 2, Ray Allen at the 3, gotta space it out, got to have a spot up 4, so I’m probably going to go with KG, he’s going to rim-run, do the dirty work. I’d put Shaq at the 5.”
What about LeBron?
Irving, via Vardon:
“Yeah, yeah, yeah well, I mean, he (James) understands,” Irving told cleveland.com, as he walked off the podium.
Irving has requested a trade from the Cavaliers, reportedly to escape LeBron’s shadow.
But take a step back from Irving’s answer, and his mere presence in New Orleans as an All-Star – again, already – foretold immense demand in the trade market.
Irving is just 25 and a four-time All-Star. Only two players have reached so many All-Star games and changed teams while as young as Irving is now: Shaquille O’Neal and Tracy McGrady.
Here’s every All-Star to switch teams before turning 26 and their age when the transaction occurred, Irving included for reference as if he were dealt today:
|Jrue Holiday||1||2013||PHI||NOP||23 years, 1 month, 0 days|
|Terry Dischinger||2||1964||BAL||DET||23 years, 6 months, 28 days|
|Jason Kidd||1||1996||DAL||PHO||23 years, 9 months, 3 days|
|Ray Felix||1||1954||BLB||NYK||23 years, 9 months, 7 days|
|Jamaal Wilkes||1||1977||GSW||LAL||24 years, 2 months, 9 days|
|Shaquille O’Neal||4||1996||ORL||LAL||24 years, 4 months, 12 days|
|Stephon Marbury||1||2001||NJN||PHO||24 years, 4 months, 28 days|
|Don Sunderlage||1||1954||MLH||MNL||24 years, 8 months, 29 days|
|Mel Hutchins||1||1953||MLH||FTW||24 years, 9 months, 1 day|
|Andrew Bynum||1||2012||LAL||PHI||24 years, 9 months, 14 days|
|Tracy McGrady||4||2004||ORL||HOU||25 years, 1 month, 5 days|
|Chris Webber||1||1998||WAS||SAC||25 years, 2 months, 13 days|
|Bob McAdoo||3||1976||BUF||NYK||25 years, 2 months, 14 days|
|Billy Knight||1||1977||IND||BUF||25 years, 2 months, 23 days|
|Len Chappell||1||1966||NYK||CHI||25 years, 3 months, 0 days|
|Len Chappell||1||1966||CHI||CIN||25 years, 9 months, 25 days|
|Kenny Anderson||1||1996||NJN||CHA||25 years, 3 months, 10 days|
|Kenny Anderson||1||1996||CHA||POR||25 years, 9 months, 14 days|
|Butch Beard||1||1972||CLE||SEA||25 years, 3 months, 19 days|
|Frank Selvy||1||1958||STL||MNL||25 years, 3 months, 7 days|
|Kyrie Irving||4||2017||CLE||?||25 years, 4 months, 5 days|
|Otis Birdsong||3||1981||KCK||NJN||25 years, 5 months, 30 days|
|LeBron James||6||2010||CLE||MIA||25 years, 6 months, 10 days|
|John Johnson||1||1973||CLE||POR||25 years, 6 months, 6 days|
|Frank Selvy||1||1958||MNL||STL||25 years, 7 months, 22 days|
|Sean Elliott||1||1993||SAS||DET||25 years, 7 months, 29 days|
|Dennis Johnson||2||1980||SEA||PHO||25 years, 8 months, 17 days|
|Alonzo Mourning||2||1995||CHA||MIA||25 years, 8 months, 26 days|
|Andrew Bynum||1||2013||PHI||CLE||25 years, 8 months, 22 days|
|Baron Davis||2||2005||NOH||GSW||25 years, 10 months, 11 days|
|Bernard King||1||1982||GSW||NYK||25 years, 10 months, 18 days|
|Vin Baker||3||1997||MIL||SEA||25 years, 10 months, 2 days|
|Kiki VanDeWeghe||2||1984||DEN||POR||25 years, 10 months, 6 days|
|Frank Selvy||1||1958||STL||NYK||25 years, 11 months, 13 days|
|Kevin Love||3||2014||MIN||CLE||25 years, 11 months, 16 days|
|Mike Mitchell||1||1981||CLE||SAS||25 years, 11 months, 22 days|
Irving didn’t sneak into only one All-Star game like Jrue Holiday and Andrew Bynum. Irving is a near-perennial selection.
And unlike several players on the above list, he’s also doing it in era where there are more NBA teams than All-Star spots. In the 60s, when the league was smaller, NBA teams averaged more than two All-Stars each.
Irving is under contract for two more years before he can opt out, and his salaries – and $18,868,626 and $20,099,189 – became bargains when the new national TV contracts caused the salary cap to skyrocket.
The timing of Irving’s trade request becoming public has certainly contributed to the frenzy, as other NBA storylines have quieted for the summer. LeBron’s enormous profile also draws attention to anything involving him and his team.
But players like Irving – young established stars – rarely become available. No matter when this story leaked or whom Irving was playing with, this is a special opportunity for whichever team acquires him.