Growing Up ... Kyrie Irving

April 23, 2012
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving was the top pick in this past June’s Draft and he’s been everything Cleveland’s expected and more. When Rookie of the Year votes are collected, the precocious point guard is likely to win in a landslide.

Only 20 years old, Irving has already done his share of growing up in the world of hoops – prolific as a high school star and matriculating for a year under Coach K at Duke before being selected atop the 2011 NBA Draft.

Irving comes from a good basketball bloodline. His father, Drederick, played at Boston University from 1984-88 and had his jersey retired by the school. He played professionally for the Bulleen Boomers in Australia – where Kyrie was born and still holds dual citizenship.

In the final installment of “Growing Up” this season, the former Blue Devil talks about his varied interests outside of hoops, his famously bent backboard as a kid and his one-on-one basketball battles with dad.

I was born in … Melbourne, Australia and lived there until I was two. I haven’t been back since then. I haven’t had the time.

I wasn’t sure I could be an NBA player … until probably my senior year of high school. Throughout my high school career, I always dreamed about being in the NBA, but I never felt I could play there. But my senior year in high school, I saw my game progress.

At that point, I used to … tell my dad: “I could do that in the NBA.”

And my dad always … believed. He’d be like: ‘Yeah, of course you could do that.’

I have two … sisters. They’re not really athletic. My little sister, she’s only four. My older sister is 21. My older sister, she’s like 5-9, almost 5-10. And my little sister’s going to be tall, too. My dad never pushed sports on them.

Growing up, I played … saxophone and trombone – both valve and baritone. I like to do a variety of things.

If I didn’t play basketball … I’d probably would be a musician – or something in music – because I appreciate music so much.

I haven’t played … either in a while. There’s not much time. But honestly, there are so many things I want to do in the offseason to keep my mind going: things that I’m really interested in, such as voice lessons or piano lessons.

Every coach that I had … growing up, they had their own different styles. When I was in high school, I was with Tony Jones at Montclair Kimberly. Then I went to Kevin Boyle (at St. Patrick’s) then I went to Coach K and now I’m with Coach Scott.

My dad was also … my coach when I was younger, too. Growing up, I’ve always had a guy who knows the game and taught me different nuances that I needed.

I learned a lot about working the backboard angles … because the right side of the one in my driveway was bent.

Of course I remember … my first dunk. I was a junior in high school. I was at St. Patrick’s and I got a steal and I dunked it.

It was during … the Union County Championship game, so it was pretty crazy. I didn’t go crazy, just stayed even-keeled. I just went up and dunked it. I was happy. My teammates were happy. But I had dunked in practice all the time.

In high school … during my senior year, I had a LOT of dunks. But once I went to Duke and hurt my toe – (not that my toe’s a problem) – but my athleticism isn’t the same as it was in high school.

First of all … I only weighed 175 pounds in my senior year. Ask my high school teammates: I used to dunk all the time. It’s all I wanted to do. But now it’s just too much energy.

I still … get up there. But I don’t feel like I need to dunk all the time. It’s the same two points. If I get a fastbreak, I’ll do it. I think I’ve had two this whole year, and I’m happy. Not a lot of people get to say they dunked in the NBA.

I was finally able to … beat my dad one-on-one when I was 16 years old. I beat him 15-0.

As I got older … my dad and I stopped playing one-on-one. He was working more and I was playing high school basketball. But when we played in the gym, it was just … it wasn’t even close. When I was 16, I started to get my athleticism a little bit and started to become quicker. So, he couldn’t stay in front of me.

I don’t say … anything about it to him. It’s unspoken now. When we play one-on-one now, he knows he can’t beat me. It’s just cardio work.