NEW ORLEANS: He stood on the court with a boyish grin and the trophy in his hands, unsure of what to do next. So in an ironic twist, it was the old Cavs’ star instructing the new one how to react to winning his first All-Star MVP award.
Kyrie Irving had 31 points and 14 assists, including 15 points in the fourth quarter to become the second-youngest player to ever win the MVP award Sunday in the East’s 163-155 comeback victory.
In each of his three years in the league, Irving has stormed into All-Star weekend and made himself known. He won the Rising Stars MVP award his rookie season, then won the 3-point contest last season.
Now he is second only to LeBron James as the youngest MVP in All-Star history. James was 21 years, 1 month and 20 days when he won his first MVP in 2006; Irving was 21 years, 10 months and 24 days on Sunday.
“Kyrie is special,” James said. “His ability to shoot the ball, get into the lane, make shots around the rim, he has a total package. And I’ve always known that.”
He also knows how to hold an All-Star MVP award, so when Irving failed to hold the trophy over his head for the traditional pose, James and others told him what to do.
“I just wanted him to have his moment, and the moment is holding that trophy above your head,” James said. “It’s the few moments in our year where you do that. … He seemed like he didn’t know exactly what to do, and I just wanted to try to give him a little tip.”
Irving was instrumental in the East’s rally from an 18-point deficit in the third quarter. He played the entire fourth quarter and dazzled for 12 minutes, catching Dwight Howard in a mismatch and giving him a shimmy and a shake as the crowed oohed and aaahed. Then his 3-pointer a few minutes later made it the highest scoring All-Star game in history.
“I try not to get too high or too low,” Irving said. “It’s a great accomplishment, especially bringing this back to Cleveland. That’s the most important thing.”
Much will be made of James and Irving’s paths; James being the former Cleveland star and Irving being the current one. James has praised Irving since his rookie season and the whispers of a possible James return to Cleveland next year just won’t go away despite the Cavs’ 20-33 record at the break.
Irving was even asked how much thought he has given to a possible pairing with James next season, since he can again become a free agent this summer.
“Everyone is going to have their opinion or write different stories,” Irving said. “But for me, my focus level is just on my team and our team that we have now. That’s the most important thing at this point for me, just how can I get myself better and how I can make my teammates better. All the outside sources, I really don’t pay attention to.”
But everyone is paying attention to Irving now.
Shortly after winning the award, he spotted his father, Drederick, on his path from the interview room to the photography room. The two men embraced and slapped each other on the hip as Irving, if only briefly, was allowed to be a kid again. As soon as the hug was over, he was back to being an emerging superstar.
Multiple NBA sponsors and their children lined up for pictures with the league’s newest young star, as did members of the Cavaliers staff. Then he took a picture for Twitter, signed it and tweeted it out immediately. Then it was more interviews and pictures. Everyone wants a piece of Irving these days.
Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant each had 38 points for the West, falling four points shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time scoring record for an All-Star game.
The Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony had 30 points, including an All-Star record eight 3-pointers, and James had 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the East. But the night belonged to the Cavs’ Irving, who said he didn’t give much thought to leaving New Orleans with the MVP.
“I just wanted to make the game competitive,” he said. “I keep saying it, but that’s what the fans want to see, and I just wanted to give the fans what they wanted.”