Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 2/18/13
Kyrie Irving cut through the lane, caught a pass from Dwyane Wade and banked in a layup in a play that would not make any of the highlight reels for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game. In an exhibition filled with Blake Griffin dunks, Kobe Bryant blocks and Chris Bosh misfortune, the most basic play imaginable capped a night that changes everything for Irving. Make no mistake, Irving has been one of the best players in the league for some time. The top pick in the 2011 draft and the reigning rookie of the year was a clear-cut choice for the Eastern Conference All-Star squad, with an argument to be made that he should have been voted as the starter over Rajon Rondo, pre-injury. Cleveland will never forgive LeBron James for his public exit in 2010, but Irving’s arrival has to dull the pain a little. Irving would not be a Cavalier, after all, if not for the awful season that followed James’ departure. To the basketball-watching world at large, though, Irving was still somewhat anonymous before last weekend. Casual fans have heard of him, but because the league’s TV partners stubbornly insist on showing teams that will get good ratings, not everyone has seen Irving play all that often. He has been a very good player toiling in the middle of nowhere, like Ray Allen in Milwaukee or Kevin Garnett in Minnesota early in their careers. Aside from the most dedicated League Pass viewers, fans only really get a chance to see those guys once a year, when the greatest talent collects in one place. So while diehard fans scoffed at the notion that All-Star weekend was Irving’s coming-out party, that is exactly what it was. First, he made Brandon Knight look silly with a crossover leading to a step-back jump shot in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge on Friday. Then, he outshot Matt Bonner in the 3-point contest on Saturday. Finally, he dropped 15 points — the final two coming on that standard cut-and-feed from Wade — in his first All-Star game on Sunday. A breakout performance is exactly what this was. After this, Irving can no longer be overlooked or lightly admired as a nice up-and-coming player. He demonstrated his excellence in so many varied areas, from Friday’s streetball competition to Saturday’s shootout to Sunday’s showcase, that he assured his place is the discussion of the league’s best players and indisputably one of its top five point guards. He already belonged in both categories, but it is one thing to really good and another thing to have people actually recognize that. The greatest statement of Irving’s arrival, however, was not a fancy pass or nifty dribble or long-range shot. It came when East coach Erik Spoelstra selected his lineup for the crucial minutes in a close fourth quarter. Despite what often amounts to three-plus quarters of matador defense and uncontested dunks, the NBA All-Star game is probably the most watchable of all the all-star games for the simple reason that the true stars are the ones on the court at the end. Unlike in baseball, where the most fearsome sluggers and shutdown hurlers take a seat sometime around the fourth inning, the end of the NBA All-Star game is the realm of the league’s best. It has led to the rare exciting ending, such as Allen Iverson leading the East’s comeback in 2001 or Michael Jordan going shot-for-shot with Bryant in 2003. As the East made its push on Sunday, closing the gap to as little as three points in the final four minutes, Spoelstra picked most of the predictable faces. He went with James, obviously, plus Wade and Carmelo Anthony, established stars in their primes. The other two spots he rotated between Paul George, Joakim Noah and Irving, depending on the matchups. George and Noah are arguably the best perimeter and post defender in the game, respectively, so their presence on the court spoke volumes of the trust Spoelstra had in the first-time All-Stars. Irving’s inclusion in the closing lineup was just as powerful a statement. This little guard out of Duke is unquestionably one of the best players in the world, and now the world knows it. Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Junior Galette out for season with torn Achilles

Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin in war of words over 'disrespect'

Report: CJ McCollum agrees to max contract with Blazers

McCarthy not worried about Matthews, Peppers PED claims

Josh Gordon reinstated by NFL, suspended four games

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Florida QB Treon Harris to transfer

Jiu-jitsu athlete says he was kidnapped in Rio by men dressed as police

49ers’ Anthony Davis officially applies for reinstatement

Jordan speaks out against shootings, donates $2 million

Report: Cromartie may be forced to retire due to hip issue

Greg Jennings announces retirement from NFL

Cubs to acquire Aroldis Chapman from Yankees

Mario Balotelli crashes Liverpool fans' wedding

Michael Vick: I used to feel I was 'dominating too much'

WATCH: Astros, Rangers minor leaguers get into brawl

A too early preview of UEFA World Cup 2018 qualifying

Blues GM: Team may take step back before moving forward

Jason Williams calls Barkley a 'loser' for Durant criticism

Four potential challengers for Amanda Nunes' belt

Kevin Owes vs. Sami Zayn: An instance classic

Jags GM: Greg Hardy workout was to 'do our homework'

White Sox refused to tip Mariners’ clubhouse attendants in protest of new policy

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

WATCH: NBA jersey sponsors that need to happen

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker