An Open Letter to Kyrie Irving

(Editor’s note: The following is a submission from Cleveland-based writer AJ Lubetkin.)


Dear Kyrie Irving,

I remember when I started to believe.

It was January 29, 2012. I had just clocked off work, delivering food for a crummy college sports bar. The Cavaliers were down against the Boston Celtics, 87-86, with less than ten seconds to go. I really had to get home to finish my coursework before another Senior English Class butt-kicking, but dammit, we were down one with possession. I grabbed a Diet Coke, sat at the bar, and sat through a handful of Bedford Nissan and Mr. Hero commercials before the game reconvened.

The whistle blows. You have the ball as you stand near mid-court, dribbling with your right hand as your left is planted just above your left knee. You dribble from right to left, sizing up the green jerseys as if they were placed on a chess board as Boston fans are raining down a chorus of chants, “DE-FENSE” echoing off of the Garden’s walls.

Six seconds. Anderson Varejao sets you a pick.

Five seconds. You split Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley.

Four seconds, three seconds, two seconds… You set your foot, pivot and elevate towards the basket for a layup that looked entirely too easy. Cavs up one. Boston doesn’t recover. Game.

What shocked me was that, for the first time in a while, I felt optimistic about the state of our Cleveland teams. I’m not a fan of the typical “woe is us” stance that seems to permeate from three separate arenas/stadiums/ballparks, but facts are facts. Since LeBron James left Cleveland we’ve gone years – years – without any realistic hope of a drought-ending championship. That’s what we want, it’s what we deserve, and anybody who tells you anything different is wrong. We don’t care how you do it, Kyrie. We want a title like you can’t possibly imagine.

So, that hope. It waxed and waned throughout your first two years, thoughts of epic Madison Square Garden performances wrestling with subpar assist numbers and a troubling medical track record over what really represented you. The wins didn’t matter at that point; the best way to succeed in the NBA is to bottom out for two or three years, and build through the draft.

Now it’s Year Three, and that hope, it just seems diluted, like someone drank half of a bottle of Gatorade and filled the empty space with water. Every good thought that we had heading into the season is either dead, dying or walking around with a red dot on its forehead.

For better or worse, a lot of that is on you.

I don’t care what anybody says: The Cavs did an amicable job at surrounding you with talent. LeBron had it worse—way worse. Chris Paul had it worse, too. Players whom ESPN is grooming you to call peers have all had to, at one point or another, galvanize whatever the hell they had in front of them and will their team into the playoffs. It’s the NBA; especially in the East, it can and has been done.  And this year might be the worst it’s ever been.

How have you responded? By glumly strolling the sideline, arguing fouls with refs, looking completely disinterested in certain situations and unwilling to share in others. You are wildly inconsistent. You look bewildered when a contested, fade-away jumper doesn’t drop.

The team plays better when you’re off the floor.

You’re also wildly talented. And only 21 years old. By no means should it be believed that whatever is going on between your ears isn’t a byproduct of your age.

But saying that you want out of Cleveland? Dude. Come on. You don’t get to say that. LeBron left and we cried, but he put in seven dedicated years to a team that, at their best, could boast Mo Williams as their second-best player. To this day – for as much as we still blast his name – it has to be said that LeBron’s fate could have been different had the Cavs held up their end of the bargain.

So if you really feel that way, your wish will probably be granted. Not this season. You might even sign an extension without forcing a trade. But eventually, if you really want to leave, you’ll find a way. And if the decisions of former stars bolting for sexier locations really is a trend, you’ll probably be a Laker or something. But – assuming you really do leave and become Top Dog elsewhere, you’ll be asked to handle adversity, to take your bruises, get up and be there for your teammates. If you can’t do it, you’ll get discouraged when the breaks don’t go your way, and captain another underachieving team to a mediocre destiny.


AJ Lubetkin graduated from Cleveland Heights High School in 2008 and Ohio University in 2012. He writes about hip-hop at The Smoking Section and doesn’t understand how somebody born in Cleveland can actually root for the Steelers. He lives for random “Here we go Brownies!” chants and Tribe games at the Jake. Follow him on Twitter.

(Image via Scott Sargent/WFNY)

  • alkjrfl

    This is exactly on-point. Great read.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Clearly AJ believed whatever he heard or read. This seems perfect for ESPN which is exactly what they wanted probably.

    This has all played out before with LeBron James lets not repeat history on any front. That’s all I ask.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Has Dan Gilbert tweeted yet?

  • skipper engel

    “Brakes” in the last graf? You’re joking. right? I don’t think you’re referencing stopping a car.
    Glad to see your OU education is paying off…

  • NrammarGazi

    “Graf”? You don’t really have any room to talk lol. The word “paragraph” was too difficult to spell I take it?

  • You really couldn’t come up with a more humane way of pointing out a typo?

  • AJ

    Preciate ya sir!

  • AJ

    What do you mean kind sir?

  • AJ


  • Anthony V.

    Good stuff! I remember when I started to believe. Mine came at last years all star game (which i feel pretty lame to admit because that is when everyone else started taking notice). And even though I watch probably 70+ games a year, that was the first time I thought Kyrie could actually lead a team. That Kyrie could be the man. That Kyrie could be the guy to lead us to a championship. And maybe i am a delusional clevaeland fan, but i still believe in him.

  • AJ

    Appreciate the support!

    By all means, maintain whatever positive vibes you’re rocking with. Don’t let me ruin that lol. I obviously hope that I’m proven wrong.

  • Monday Night Tebow

    Zydrunas– and then Andy– were always the second best players on the LeBron Cavs. Never, EVER Mo Williams.

  • Harv 21

    agree with much of this. Unlike many guys who appear heading for stardom, you’d be hard-pressed to think of any area where Kyrie has significantly improved since his great rookie year. Chris Paul, Lebron, Durant, Kobe … all those guys added offense, defense and leadership by their third year.

    Disagree about the surrounding talent. Tristan looks more and more like just a rotation guy. Not better than Varajao in his prime, less productive than Drew Gooden. And Dion may just be a stone-cold albeit talented head case, who will shuttle from team to team as he wears out his welcome.

    [ “The Cavs did an amicable job at surrounding you with talent.” No son, better head back to the rack and pick yourself out another adjective. Amicable means all friendly-like. Admirable?]

  • CLE23

    An open letter to this author:
    Please do not write open letters that treat second-hand rumors as fact to Mr Irving anymore. He is talented enough to make the Olympic team and he says he wants to play in CLE.

    The Cavs are not winning and, for better or worse, even an untrained eye can understand that if a lot of that was just on him then he would be the only one playing poorly while the other players would be doing well. but they are not, and since almost everyone is not meeting expectations this year then maybe, just maybe, there might be another very obvious reason why.

    The Cavs are better when Kyrie is on the floor and the article you site attempts to explain some of the reasons behind those stats. Did you even read the article or just the headline?

    now to parody your “writing”

    To say that Kyrie wants out Cleveland because you read a non-sourced statement on a blog, even though Kyrie has directly refuted that statement, and even though he would lose millions of dollars to leave CLE before his 6th season, dude come on.

  • thenoclist

    Can’t believe this site entertained that “open letter”

  • CLE23

    it seems like open season on kyrie because the cavs are losing. CLE23 hasn’t seen anything from the authors on this site attempting to blame coach brown.

  • AJ

    Damn. No love for the new guy?

    1. The article that I quoted does, in fact, argue what I originally said. The team plays better when Irving is off the court:

    “Ultimately, Irving will be fine. He’s incredibly talented and has a bright future as a big-time player in this league. It’s just a little disappointing that we didn’t get another leap out of him in his third season and instead saw a bit of a regression. It’s not totally alarming but it is confusing as to how all of a sudden the team was technically better without him for the first two seasons of a big season for this franchise.”

    I said “the team plays better when you’re off the floor.” Stats prove this. Fact.

    2. Parody my “writing,” eh? I’ll (mostly) take the higher road with this one, but… you’re writing in third person, broskie. I’ll be polite, but you’re entire e-persona is just begging to be mocked.

    3. Not a friend. Just an established blogger who wanted to talk Cleveland sports with people who share that passion with me.

    Now, maybe you guys are regulars around these parts. That’s cool. I’m not here to step on anybody’s toes or anything. I’m honestly glad that something I wrote resonated with you guys, even if you disagree wholeheartedly. And at the end of the day, we all want the same thing.

    That being said, take your homer glasses off, and please wake up. Kyrie deserves a portion of the blame. But if you don’t want to have an intellectual conversation about it – and you’d rather resort to bashing my “writing” – go nuts. Not the way that I’d go about my life, but it is what it is.

  • AJ

    And CLE23:

    I really want Coach Brown gone more than anything in the world. Bring in George Karl or something.

  • AJ

    1. I think TT in particular has more offensive talent than people realize. Too tired to look up stats to back this up, but I’d love to see the offense run through him a bit more. He has his moments.

    2…. Yeah, admirable. lol

  • ChadF

    Dude, I’m pretty sure he was referring to “your” open letter…

    Are you that dense?


    Olympic Gold Medalist Christian Donald Laettner (I dropped 11 on Puerto Rico homie)

  • CLE23

    you didn’t exactly take the high road but that’s ok. CLE23 has thick skin. as in he’s really fat.

    truth be told, I’m not well liked around here. im under threat of being banned from this site and this post might do it. they tell me I don’t contribute to the conversation.

    I’m a proud homer. not dumb, but proud.

    you seem like a good guy so please help me figure this out, IF kyrie is the problem then how come everyone else is not meeting expectations this year? Wouldn’t it make more sense to think coach brown in the problem and that his “system” is frustrating the players? wouldn’t that better explain kyrie’s (and the rest of the cavs) sudden lack of effort?

    consider that when brown had LeBron james here that the best offensive plays he could come up with after timeouts were to let LeBron hold the ball and then shoot as the timeclock expires?

    and consider how brown was fired from the lakers. they bought what he was selling, namely defense and discipline. he didn’t deliver and he was fired. yet somehow he peddled his goods here and gilbert bought.

    CLE23 eagerly awaits your reply

  • CLE23

    chadF…thenoclist gave my post a vote up. CLE23 prefers to be called fat, not dense. semantics help us get closer to the truth.

    and that should have been shaq’s 11 points homie

  • CLE23

    AJ, instead of George karl we have coach brown eating Carl’s Jr during games.

  • CLE23

    CHECK and MATE, broskie

  • CLE23

    CLE23 checkmated AJ in less than an hour.

  • AJ

    CLE, like I said, you’re preaching to the choir re: Mike Brown. I kinda sorta talked myself into it when we picked him up, but good lord has this season exposed him as a terrible coach. They don’t even play defense half the time.

  • thenoclist

    Dude, I’m pretty sure you’re wrong

  • AJ

    Guys – let’s stop arguing about little things. We’re all here for the same reason, because we love our Cleveland teams.

    If you want something to hate on, my roommate is a front-running LeBron fan. He has THREE Miami jerseys: one home, one away and one alternate. Great guy but whenever he tries to talk to me about basketball I just can’t take it seriously haha.

  • ChadF

    I guess I am wrong. How many different logins do you have CLE? From your comments you seen to have undying love for Bernie and Kyrie. No mention of the Tribe yet. I’d love to see where you stand on Chris Perez…

  • A good read–critical, but more positive than I expected going in (pretty sure my own open letter to Kyrie would read like Clark Griswold’s Christmas rant about Frank Shirley. Where’s the Tylenol?). And yet my Kyrie fatigue level, coupled with my near-certainty that he’s gone soon, leaves me with this lingering thought: I sure miss me some Mr. Hero.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I completely disagree Thompson looks horrible whenever he attempts anything other then a rebound put back. He’s probably one of this teams biggest disappointments this season for me.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Waffle fries and cheese FTW! I usually get these 1x a week if I can.

  • Nailed it, sir. Any time I’m in town, there’s at least one Mr. Hero stop and one Swenson’s visit. I fear what my weight would increase to should I ever move back up.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I don’t know whether to believe all of these rumors or not that’s all. I tend to believe where there is smoke there is fire but until Irving fires his agent and declines the option I’ll just go with the flow.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Oh man love Swenson’s too. I haven’t had them in years. When I was on the west side visiting relatives I always swung by for a few burgers and sides.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    Dude, stop. Stop referring to your online name in the third person. Stop bashing Mike Brown on every post. Stop defending Kyrie in every post. We all get it. Point taken.

    I could rewrite everything you say in 6 words. “CLE23 says Brown bad, Kyrie good.

  • AJ

    MY MAN

    Mr. Hero, always and forever