Today’s generation of basketball fans love Kyrie Irving and understand what he means to the culture. To know Kyrie though you have to look into his lineage. Realize that his dad Drederick grew up in the South Bronx with one of New York City’s most heralded prodigies: journeyman point guard Rod Strickland. The bond between Dred and Rod is so tight that Rod is godfather to Kyrie Irving.
If you break down Kyrie’s game, you can see traces of Rod’s stamp all over it. Rod was one of the NBA’s premier finishers below the rim. His ability to get his shot off on any defender, at any angle, was unparalleled. His court vision, handle and consistency at the Point Guard position helped him to a fruitful 17-year career that spanned across 9 cities. Although ultimate team success escaped Rod, his career was very solid given the circumstances of always being on the move. Drafted in 1988 by his hometown New York Knicks (who’d drafted reigning Rookie of the Year Mark Jackson the year before) Strickland learned quickly that the NBA is a business. His longest spells were in Portland and Washington D.C. where he played 5 seasons each.
Kyrie Irving’s continued success and evolution is a testament to not only his father Dred (an accomplished pro overseas), but also to his Godfather. Kyrie’s jump shot is something that is progressively better than Strickland’s. However, Strickland possesses a command of the Point Guard position that Irving has yet to exude. Luckily Irving has an amazing supporting cast as well as great mentor’s to help him reach those heights that Strickland seemed to grace throughout his career. Irving has an edge on his Godfather though, as he’s been an All-Star, and has already played in an NBA Finals.
I kind of wonder what those lessons were like for a young Kyrie Irving, having to match up with not only dad but also his Godfather. The lessons though, however brutal and strenuous, have certainly paid off.