Part of what makes Kyrie Irving so brilliant is also what makes him so maddening. Each of his dribbles feel like a chapter in a choose your own ending book, and with Irving, you’re always unsure of which direction he’ll choose.
When he’s off, Irving always chooses the options that ends in death. He pounds the ball over and over again, so infatuated with his own dribbling that Halle Berry could walk in front of him, naked, and he’d hardly notice. He’ll fly into the lane without a care, a spinning top with no direction, only to lose the basketball amongst a sea of hands.
But when he’s on, as he was in Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals, he’s always picking the right page. His decisions are quick, his dribbles crisp. His movements have a greater purpose than auditioning for And 1 Mixtape, and en route to a 41 point performance that saved the Cleveland Cavaliers season from more than just a second straight Finals loss, Irving was the captain of his own ship.
He dribbled circles around both Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, rendering their outstretched hands to invisible obstacles as he knocked down jumper after jumper in their faces. LeBron James was fantastic in his own right last night, and yet it still felt like Irving was operating on an alternate timeline. He mapped out his movements as if the lane had been lit up with LEDs to show him the way to the hoop. His jumpers soared to the moon and back, leaving Warriors defenders helpless even when their fingertips came so tantalizingly close to scraping the surface of the basketball.
As the fourth quarter wound down, Irving hit the crescendo of his overture, a 3-pointer directly in the domicile of Andre Iguodala, whose hands couldn't have been any physically closer to the basketball without actually touching it if he tried. Irving fell to the floor as the ball splashed through nylon, the biggest "you can't stop me, bruh" shot he'd hit all night. It was beautiful.
There are, hopefully, two more games left in these Finals, and Irving will once again have to choose where he wants to go at the beginning of both. But after watching him decimate the Warriors in Oracle Arena during an elimination game, perhaps he's getting better at choosing his own adventure.