INDEPENDENCE: Kyrie Irving is back as Uncle Drew. This time, he’s bringing a couple of old friends with him.
Irving filmed the second installment of the hit PepsiMax series in early September in Los Angeles, although some parts were also filmed in Lakewood. Pepsi signed on Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love and NBA legend Bill Russell for the sequel.
In the film series, Irving disguises himself as an old man and hobbles onto the basketball courts, then shows up the young guys he’s playing against with dazzling moves and long-distance shots.
Love plays Uncle Drew’s old teammate, Uncle Wes, and Russell plays himself. Russell encourages Drew to go find Wes and “put the team back together again.”
There is a striking resemblance to Uncle Drew and Russell — after Irving sits through four hours of makeup.
“When I took a picture with him, I looked at my phone and was like, ‘I look just like him.’ It was kind of funny,” Irving said. “That resemblance really came out to play when I got dressed up.”
The first Uncle Drew episode was released in May. In it, no one on the court or in the stands knew who Irving really was. The popularity of that video (16 million hits on YouTube) made it impossible to keep Irving’s identity a secret in Uncle Drew Chapter 2. But no one knew Uncle Wes was actually played by Love.
“He was a great first-time actor to work with. It’s a little weird saying that. I feel I have a little experience with acting,” Irving joked. “I was giving him some tips. I told him to be in character and he was. He did a phenomenal job.”
Irving wrote the script and directed the five-minute film. He said he came up with the idea for the character after watching a YouTube video of an elderly man walking into a skate park, pulling a skateboard out of his briefcase and dazzling the crowd with his stunts. Irving thought it would be funny to replicate it on the basketball court. Now even other NBA stars approach him and call him Uncle Drew.
As for Russell, Irving said his heart was pounding just meeting him and chatting with him. There were times, while Irving was in costume, Russell acted like he was really talking to someone from his generation.
“He had so many stories. Sometimes I felt he was talking to an old man,” Irving said. “Some of the older jokes, there were some awkward laughs like, ‘I know what you’re talking about, but not really.’ He has a lot of wisdom. He’s a really funny guy.”
Irving wouldn’t say whether or not there are more episodes in the works. Since Russell encourages Irving to “put the team back together” in the video, there would seem to be at least three more episodes to go. But Irving isn’t saying yet.
“We’ll see,” he said. “You never know where Uncle Drew will show up next.”
Bulls on tap
Irving still hasn’t faced Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose, and he won’t again today, when the Cavs host the Bulls. Rose was injured the first time the teams met last year, and Irving was ill for the rematch. Both stars sat out the regular-season finale between the teams in April, then Rose tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in the Bulls’ first playoff game. He isn’t expected to return until at least January, although the Bulls haven’t established a timeline yet. With Rose, they had the best record in the Eastern Conference last season. Cavs coach Byron Scott still believes they’re a top team without him.
“Chicago is a very good basketball team without Derrick. Obviously with Derrick, it makes them a great team,” Scott said. “They’re still running the same stuff, the only problem is now they don’t have that closer they had when Derrick was there. The game can be tight in the fourth quarter and he’s able to take over. They’re trying to do it by committee, which is understandable.”