Kyrie Irving is the second-youngest member of the U.S. Olympic basketball team, but when it comes to this sport, he’s actually an old soul.
“This is what I’ve been preparing for my entire life,” Irving said after the Americans’ exhibition win over Venezuela. “I’ve put myself in this position.”
Irving just turned 24 years old in March. Already, he’s won a championship as the starting point guard for the Cavaliers. He’s also won an All-Star Game MVP and FIBA World Cup MVP.
As for Team USA, only forward Harrison Barnes is younger.
Like Irving, Barnes has won a title. So have U.S. teammates Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. All but Irving, of course, won with the Warriors. (Barnes has since moved on to the Mavericks.)
No matter, Irving is the only Team USA member who won the NBA’s most recent championship.
He will occasionally have fun with it, often while on plane rides or practice, ribbing some of his U.S. teammates.
But he also takes winning a title very seriously.
“I know a few guys in the locker room are already NBA champions, so I’m just glad to be on that list,” Irving said. “A few of the other guys, they want that. If they have any questions, I know Draymond, Harrison, Klay, or myself will answer.”
“We understand what the process takes in order to win something bigger than you,” he said. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
Irving’s winning mindset has carried over from the NBA to Team USA. That much has been evident in four exhibition games, all easy wins.
Most around the team will tell you Irving is putting in the work, leading and just generally conducting himself like a champion.
Again, all this coming from the second-youngest guy on the roster.
“He is a really skilled point guard,” said Venezuela guard John Cox. “It is not just his speed, he has a really good mid-range game. He is a really confident player especially after (winning the championship) this year.”
Young, old, whatever. To Irving, it doesn’t matter. He’s always been one of the most talented players on the floor, with great range on his jumper — and the type of ball-handling and shiftiness that allow him to get to the rim with the greatest of ease.
He’s never lacked assurance when it comes to taking over games, or even just calmly directing the offense.
U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski seems to be at his most relaxed when the ball is in Irving’s hands. Irving often acts as an extension of the Coach K’s mind.
“It’s something I’ve been preparing for, for a long time,” Irving said.
“I’ve been working hard and have the confidence of my teammates and the coaching staff.”