Morning Shootaround

Kyrie Irving explains how movie affected his career, praises coach Brad Stevens

NBA.com staff reports

Kyrie Irving is a bonafide star in the NBA, having All-Star appearances, long playoff runs and an NBA championship to his name. As the star point guard of the Boston Celtics, he’s trying to take his new team to the level he often enjoyed over the last few seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma has become one of the most successful figures in the game and, now has a podcast called “Holding Court.” His first guests were ex-UConn star Sue Bird and Irving, who opened up about his drive to succeed, playing in Boston and more. Nicole Yang of Boston.com has some of Irving’s choice excerpts from the podcast:

On Irving’s shoes, you’ll find the word ‘Whiplash’ penned in cursive along the side of the sole. Why? Well, he credits the 2014 film for providing a necessary boost in his career.

“I first saw it in Kobe’s “Muse” documentary that he released,” Irving said. “He was talking about ‘Whiplash,’ and I was like, ‘Man, I got to catch that movie.’ I had no idea what it was going into it. I ended up ordering it and watching it, and watched it over and over, and watched it probably about six times.”

Irving happened to watch the drama for the first time in 2015, when he was suffering from a knee injury that sidelined him for his first NBA Finals as well as the start of the following season. He calls the movie “a turning point” in helping him take things to the next level.

“I just, I was amazed,” he continued. “It was just that twitch. It was just that extra level that I knew I had to push through despite what I was going through. The perfection of the craft in anything that people are doing in life, it takes a sh– ton of sacrifice and being away from things that normal people would want to do.”

“You have to sacrifice relationships, you have to sacrifice a ton of your focus. You have to develop your mental aptitude, and I started figuring out that the little things matter in the grand scheme of things and in putting on a huge performance,” Irving explained. “No one gets to see the things you do behind closed doors. The sleepless nights and staying up late and bleeding, basically bleeding for your craft because you want to be that great. I took all that from that movie, and I started loving it more and more.”

In a blockbuster deal with the Celtics, the Cavaliers sent Irving to Boston following his request to be traded out of Cleveland this past summer. While many speculated that LeBron James was a major factor in his decision to leave, Irving has focused much of the conversation on his future rather than the past.

When Auriemma asked why he decided to come to Boston, the four-time All-Star responded: “That was kind of pre-ordained.”

Irving explained why the move just seemed to make sense for him. His parents met in Boston, seeing that both his mother, Elizabeth, and father, Drederick, were student athletes at Boston University. As a result, Irving ended up spending a lot of time in the city when he was growing up and even went to his first basketball camp at his parents’ alma mater. Over the years, he cultivated a “deep-rooted connection” to the city — one that he still feels today.

“I don’t even question it,” he told Auriemma. “It just ended up really, really working out.”

Outside of his established link with the city, Irving also lauded Stevens as a tremendous plus. He spoke very highly of his current head coach and praised not only “his knowledge of the game for how old he is” but also his overall demeanor.

“He’s starting to gain notoriety, but he always, always downplays it because he understands that the importance is not in himself. It’s not in gaining any acceptance from anyone else in terms of what he can do as a basketball head coach. It’s just literally about the job and his family,” he said.

“When you have a guy like that — that’s just putting it out there in terms of what he’s about — it kind of draws you. You want to be drawn to people like that. It was something I was unbelievably craving in terms of what I wanted for my career,” he continued. “Brad fits perfectly in terms of that because he has an intellectual mind and is an intellectual human being.”

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