Cavaliers, WWW

Kyrie Irving’s heel turn takes another step: While We’re Waiting

While there have been countless matches and pay-per-views in the history of professional wrestling, 1996’s “Bash at the Beach” may be the one with the most cultural relevance, one that is discussed over 20 years later. It was here, during the Daytona, Florida-based event held by now-defunct World Championship Wrestling (or, WCW) where career-long good guy (or “face”) Hulk Hogan teamed up with the bad guys in Scott Hall and Kevin Nash (or “heels”) to form a faction that would forever change the landscape of the industry, the New World Order. This “heel turn” carried plenty of symbolism, including Hogan, who had worn red and yellow throughout his tenure as a wrestler, joining a group of guys who wore nothing but black with the occasional red or white accents. His bleach blonde beard was died black, and his mantra of urging young kids to say their prayers and eat their vitamins was now met with a guy whose bandana said “Hollywood” while he wore sunglasses indoors. It was as if someone surprisingly took the head off of Mickey Mouse and inside was a guy who looked like a Steve Bucsemi stunt double bathed in Wild Turkey, dragging on a nonfiltered Pall Mall.

On Sunday morning, NBA fans woke up to a viral video of Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, standing alongside Warriors guard Steph Curry—the very man who he’s matched up with in three straight NBA Finals, winning one and losing two—while the Golden State guard mocked LeBron James. The jabs came in the way of Curry, dancing at a wedding, doing so as if he were James in one of his various Instagram workout videos where the four-time MVP grimaces and grunts his way through a bass-filled workout while someone else films.

First James:

And now Steph and Kyrie:

To reset: Irving quietly asked the Cleveland Cavaliers to trade him from a perennial contender so he could ostensibly be the face of a franchise, no longer yearning to play alongside James. The news of these trade requests came out roughly two weeks after they were made, Irving blaming James and his camp for the news coming to light. Thinking was, James wanted to put Irving on blast for no longer wanting to be a member of the franchise, knowing what sort of fan backlash there would be. (Had the Cavs simply traded Irving without knowledge of any of this, all of the WTFs would have been lobbed in the way of the front office. Instead, they’re squarely on Irving.)

Irving would spend the next few days in China on tour with Nike Basketball, posting imagery and videos of the events as if nothing was going on back in the States. On his trip back, however, the point guard uploaded a video of him singing “I’m Coming Home,” the song that will forever be linked to James’ return to Cleveland in the summer of 2014. He promptly unfollowed James on Instagram, and despite his no longer being overseas, has gone radio silent on the Cavs. In Koby Altman’s introductory press conference, it would only be said that the team was in discussion with his representation—not the player himself—and that the situation was “fluid.” We would post a “closing thoughts” roundtable, assuming that the drama had subsided, but Irving insisted we hold his beer as he celebrates the nuptials of one Harrison Barnes.

In a vacuum, each individual instance traverses between “Ugh” and “Are you kidding me?” But as you pile each on one top of another, it’s enough to have Terry Pluto call you out for your online video-posting habits. The video of Curry mocking LeBron is a part of the #LeBronChallenge, an online meme of sorts where folks post videos of themselves working out, howling at a recording smartphone in a variety of capacities, while being overly egregious in the mannerisms inherent in anything physical fitness. Bonus points for yelling things like “Let’s Go!” and adding hashtags about greatness and things about silencing doubters. Anyone who’s upset about Irving being in the video isn’t upset about the video as much as they are what it stands for in the grand scheme of this entire saga.

Summer is king when it comes to ephemeral news. Fans of Major League baseball are busy scouring trade deadline rumors in hopes their team improves heading into the home stretch. NFL Fans are charting the 65th man on in training camp, soaking up every story about some journeyman who’s now in the best shape of his career. But outside of the future employment of Colin Kaepernick, no story in sports is bigger than the one where a team’s multi-time All-Star not only demands to be relinquished from a championship contender, but continues to be the online version of a guy who fouls the shit out of an opponent then puts his hands up as if he didn’t make any contact whatsoever.

Given NBA rules on when certain players can be traded, there’s a very good chance this situation drags out well into August. This is to say, of course, that a trade happens before the season at all. While Altman and Dan Gilbert will call it “fluid,” both men know that any deal they entertain not only has to keep the team in line with their contention window, but also put them in a better position for the future. Irving has two years left on his deal, and while his value may not be any higher than it is now, it’s one of the rare instances where the team has some of the leverage in trade discussions.

There’s no way to know what happens next, but if “Bash at the Beach” taught us anything, Kyrie Irving’s heel turn is only heating up. If I’m Key Felder, I’m staying inside for a while.

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