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October 16, 2018 | 5:25 pm EDT Update
If you’re a coach, he might refuse to return your messages for weeks, just to test you. If you’re a teammate, he might bait and debate you, just because. He might publicly question the spherical nature of our planet. And when that triggers a backlash, he might shrug and say, “I’m just asking questions.” He’ll confront, prod, provoke. “He’s gonna challenge you mentally, psychologically, definitely,” Celtics teammate Marcus Smart says. “It comes off as sarcastic, it comes off as arrogant, but it’s just Kyrie. He’s different.”
And not a day goes by that Irving doesn’t do something that makes everyone stop and say, “Wow.” “In open gym, it was literally him against three people,” Horford says, describing one mind-blowing sequence. “There was a defender that was coming. [Irving] was running full speed, stopped, put the ball [behind] his back. There was a guy right here, so I don’t know how he got the ball across it, but the ball split the two guys, he took a step, the other defender—the third defender—came up, he took another step, he grabbed it, whipped it behind his back and laid it up. But it was like a fading floater with the left hand. It’s stuff that you can’t make up.” “And it went in,” Horford adds, in case there was any doubt. “That’s one of those plays that I’ll never forget.
On the eve of the 2018 playoffs, Kyrie Irving invited Terry Rozier to raid his shoe closet. Sidelined by knee surgery, Irving was channeling all his energy into preparing Rozier, his understudy, for the postseason. As it happens, their feet are the same size. So part of that preparation began in the closet, which was filled with every version of Irving’s signature shoe, from the Kyrie 1 through the Kyrie 4, dozens of them, in every colorway. “That was special,” Rozier says. “He didn’t even go in there with me. He was like, ‘Yo, take as many pairs of shoes as you need.'” … “It’s all genuine at the end,” Rozier says. “I know he cares for me, and I care for him.”
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