Even though the Brooklyn Nets have crashed out of the postseason, Kyrie Irving has still found a way to insert himself into the spotlight. On April 28, the guard took to Twitter and fired off five messages. While they were admittedly a bit tricky to parse, Irving seemed to have an overarching issue with “media corporations” acting as “puppet masters” to shape the narrative.
In fairness to Irving, this isn’t a completely new position. At the tail end of 2020, he refused to speak to reporters and later explained his behavior with a social media post saying that he “did not talk to Pawns.”
This time around, though, Irving seems to be spinning somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The media does tend to discuss him in certain ways, but the guard also does his fair share to keep that narrative going.
Kyrie Irving caps off a dramatic Nets season with a string of bizarre tweets
While every NBA team except one will ultimately fall short of a championship, the Brooklyn Nets had a particularly disappointing campaign. Kyrie Irving missed time due to his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Kevin Durant suffered an injury that interrupted the campaign, and Ben Simmons never hit the court. Things finally came to an early end with a postseason sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics.
As if that wasn’t dramatic enough, Irving has done his part to keep the drama moving. After the season ended, he made a questionable comment about playing a role in guiding the franchise moving forward. Then, on Thursday, he fired off five tweets about the media.
At the risk of trying to parse through his messages, the guard appeared to take a shot at “the puppet masters” who “CONTROL PUBLIC PERCEPTION, all while profiting off discussing, discrediting, and disrespecting people’s lives for entertainment.”
He also criticized “media corporations [that] make their money by degrading BLACK/African/Indigenous community heroes. They thrive off of it, and then sell it back to us by having a hand selected person or group of people spark controversy about them for the world to see.”
Needless to say, that’s not exactly what you expect an NBA player to be tweeting about during the postseason.
Kyrie has a point, but he’s also the one who keeps his narrative moving beyond basketball
Although it’s a bit tough to pinpoint exactly what Kyrie is saying, the guard does seem to make some valid points. Certain players, like LeBron James, will always be in the media spotlight; that’s partially because they’re the biggest names, but it’s also because they sell newspapers/get clicks.
It’s also true that race can affect media coverage — just consider Raheem Sterling’s Instagram example of how Black soccer players are covered as compared to their white counterparts. Anyone who’s a long-time sports fan can also attest to how consistent coverage can create a narrative and influence a fan base’s perception of a player.
Assuming that’s not completely putting words into Irving’s mouth, he’s making valid points.
With all of that being said, though, the Nets guard does seem to be missing another piece of the puzzle. As an NBA player, Kyrie also plays a role in shaping his coverage. Whenever he decries the media narrative, he’s only ensuring that those comments will be covered. When consumers gravitate to that coverage — almost everyone, whether they want to admit it or not, can’t look away from the drama — that sets the stage for more Kyrie coverage. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
At this point, most of the media coverage around Irving does focus on the negatives. He’s been blasted by Stephen A. Smith, ripped by Jay Williams, and has spawned countless columns with his behavior. While that might not feel fair, it’s also somewhat tied to his own actions.
There’s a lot working in Irving’s favor. He’s an incredibly talented player. He gives lots of money to good causes. It’s just hard to reconcile that with his other behavior. Refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, for example, puts others at risk and, purely from a sporting perspective, hurt his team.
While I would never tell an athlete to stop speaking up — one of my pet peeves is hockey players who trot out nothing but cliches during media availability — Irving can also play a role in shaping his own narrative. The guard can’t be oblivious to how he’s portrayed. If he’s unhappy with the way he’s being discussed, he could try to dial back claims about managing the organization and speak like someone who actually cares if the Nets win or lose. You be candid and genuine without placing yourself in the spotlight.
Or, in this case, he could understand that a questionable Twitter rant will only give his critics something else to use as ammunition. Even if you feel you’re being targeted because of “puppet masters,” you can still choose which sentiments to express in a public forum.
In a way, the tweets were classic Kyrie Irving. While there were some valid points, they were impossible to divorce from the larger context of overall strangeness. Even if the guard doesn’t get it, he’s shaped that narrative for himself. He’ll either have to actively change it or live with the consequences.