Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (11).
- When Kyrie Irving is on -- and his jersey is untucked -- he's borderline unstoppable.
- He is on a short list of players with an iconic alter ego on the basketball court. Rob Perez takes some time to appreciate Untucked Kyrie and some of the other great NBAvengers.
He’s the most popular player in the NBA.
Before his emergence, we’d have to debate who is most-deserving of this honor — whether it’s LeBron, Giannis, Steph, Wade, or Westbrook — all of these stars have had claim to the throne.
But now, it’s a consensus — an evolution of the man himself into the world-renowned supernatural being beloved by basketball fans from all walks of life.
Similar to T’Challa throwing on the Black Panther uniform, Tony Stark suiting up into Iron Man, or Dr. Bruce Banner losing his temper and morphing into the Incredible Hulk, the NBA has assembled its own legion of Avengers throughout time who, when called upon, can save a franchise in their moment of reckoning and destroy the most worthy adversaries no matter what obstacles are before them.
The NBAvengers list is a cast of characters who have all had their moments of glory at the peak of their performance:
- Hoodie Melo
- Gang Sign John Wall
- Shirtless J.R. Smith
- Headbutt John Starks
- Choking Reggie Miller
- Mouthpiece Steph
- Toothless Isaiah
- China Klay
- Finger-Wagging Mutombo
- Beer-Drenched Artest
- Darth Giannis
- Wheelchair Pierce
- Waiters Island
- Smiling Kawhi
But if we’re being completely honest here, they all pale in comparison to the group’s most powerful superheroes.
You see, the thing about Untucked Kyrie is that he’s not just a one-off social media fling. Every time you look up and his jersey is flailing in the wind like a cape, he is getting grown man buckets.
Buckets that you can’t even get in NBA 2K. The violence he demonstrates playing the game is impossible to dislike. Even when he’s torturing your team with displays of AND 1 mixtape brilliance translated to the world’s most competitive basketball theater, you can’t help but sit back, assume the surrender cobra position, and tip your hat.
Regarding this version of Kyrie, there are so many questions to ask:
1. How does he obtain his power? Does he untuck the jersey himself? Does it just fall out of his shorts naturally? Or is it when an opposing player grabs him?
2. Will we see an opposing coach call a timeout just to get the refs to make him tuck it back in?
3. Is he the most powerful NBAvenger of all-time?
While we can’t answer the first two today, we can address Question 3.
To be the most powerful NBA transformation, you must have the most accomplished resume of achievements while in character. Any time there has been a memorable moment where Kyrie’s jersey was tucked in, it cannot be included.
Untucked Kyrie has an NBA Finals-winning Game 7 Hall-of-Fame-rotunda play…
…two 40-point Finals performances, and multiple playoff-defining sequences in his utility belt.
So who’s his competition?
Flu Game Jordan
June 11, 1997. Salt Lake City, Utah. Game 5. The performance heard around the world. If you call yourself a fan of basketball, you will never forget the night, whether you were watching it live or not.
After going down 16 points early, Michael Jordan unleashed a 38-point, 7-rebound, 5-assist, 3-steal exposé, battling serious flu-like symptoms throughout the game, and single handedly dragging the Bulls to a 90-88 victory.
All he does for an encore is drop 39, 11, and 4 two days later to clinch Chicago’s fifth championship of the decade.
This wasn’t the first time a sick Michael Jordan took out the pain of his illness on another team.
If we go all the way back to April 19, 1988, a season in which Jordan averaged 35 points and a career-high 40.4 (!) minutes per contest, the first “Jordan Flu Game” happened.
With the Bulls and Knicks jockeying for playoff positioning and Chicago two games away from its first 50-win season in 15 years, and MJ decided to uncork 47 points in Madison Square Garden, including the famous posterization of Mark Jackson and kicking Patrick Ewing in the head.
Almost every single Kobe Bryant game-winner has come following some form of the patented jersey-biting.
Whether it’s in the huddle, walking back onto the court after a timeout, after a dead ball, or even during the play itself, you could argue this alter ego is responsible for some of the biggest Lakers victories and most famous franchise moments in NBA history.
But if he’s not doing it while the play is actually happening, should it count? Is it a power source he bites into before play resumes to level up above his competition?
If the court of #NBATwitter determines it doesn’t, then Kobe’s entire career was technically played as jersey-biting Kobe and it’s not valid as an alter ego. It’s just Kobe.