Kyrie Irving is a celebrity.
Being a professional athlete does not make you a celebrity, but there are things a professional athlete can do in their career that elevate them to the level of celebrity. They can act in movies. They can use their name recognition to sell products. They can leverage their athletic career to turn themselves into a brand.
Kyrie Irving has done all of those things. Ergo, Kyrie Irving is a celebrity.
So there are only so many tiny violins one can play when, on Monday, Irving complained to reporters that he just wants to play basketball and doesn’t want any of this “celebrity” stuff that seems to come with it.
Kyrie Irving today: “I didn’t really come into this game to be cameras in my face, be famous, be a celebrity, whatever embodies that. It’s a little hard for me. I wanted those things when I was younger, but now … I just want to play basketball at a very high level.”
— Tom Westerholm (@Tom_NBA) March 4, 2019
“I didn’t really come into this game to be cameras in my face, be famous, be a celebrity, whatever embodies that. It’s a little hard for me. I wanted those things when I was younger, but now … I just want to play basketball at a very high level.”
On paper that’s a fine and understandable sentiment. And in the context of what Irving has been going through with the Boston Celtics over the last few weeks, you could certainly understand his frustrations. The two sides seem to be headed towards an acrimonious divorce and Irving has borne the brunt of a lot of criticism in the media and otherwise.
— Kyle Draper (@KyleDraperTV) March 4, 2019
But there’s a difference between “I just want to focus on basketball right now,” which is what it seems like Kyrie is going for, and “I never wanted to be a celebrity,” which rings a little hollow when you consider what Irving was doing just one year ago.
As recently as a year ago, Kyrie was promoting Uncle Drew and talking about how he wanted to start his own TV network. 2 months ago, it was announced that Irving would star in a movie about the Skirvin Hotel. https://t.co/zl4Kou85jL
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) March 4, 2019
It may not be fair but it’s a fact of life that if you’re actively doing things that rely on or create fame, you are a celebrity of a kind. And you’ll have to deal with the spotlight that comes with it. There are plenty of guys out there who “just want to play basketball” and do that. If that’s what you really want, it’s possible (to a degree). But not if you’re also consistently racking up credits on IMDB.
Kyrie Irving’s postgame press conference vs. Rockets. pic.twitter.com/w84JiynPOJ
— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) March 3, 2019
Irving clearly needs something to change, because he doesn’t seem to be having any fun right now. And perhaps part of that is putting his non-athletic career on hold while he sorts it out. If that’s the case, you can certainly say that you don’t want to be a celebrity anymore. But don’t try to convince us that you never wanted that to begin with.