Is Kyrie Irving a Hall of Famer?
Updated: Feb 3, 2021
Uncle Drew is probably the most awesome character ever made for a commercial.
If you’ve never seen the old Kyrie Irving-Uncle Drew Pepsi commercials, I highly encourage you to watch them. You won’t be disappointed.
But since the days of Uncle Drew, Irving’s portrayal in the media has definitely been controversial….and that’s putting it lightly.
Regardless of how you feel about Irving’s take that the world is flat, or is his failure to show up for basketball games after the White House riots, you have to admit that the Irving brand is one of the most popular ones in the entire NBA. Negative publicity is still good publicity, and Irving continues to be relevant in the media, even when he’s not playing.
But is Kyrie Irving more of a brand or one of the game’s all-time great point guards? To answer that question, the numbers may surprise you.
At first glance, Irving’s resume seems more like an exceptional offensive talent who struggles on the defensive end. He has an NBA championship ring, but you have to remember that LeBron James (luh-BRAWN James) was his teammate in Cleveland. Irving could very well win another championship in Brooklyn, but until he does, some of the fans (and even the Professional Basketball Writers Association critics) might consider Irving just a “Robin” to the incredible “Batman” of L-B-J.
That being said, when I think of the most exceptionally gifted point guards, my list is small. Once you get past the likes of Magic Johnson, Penny Hardaway, Oscar Robertson, and even Russell Westbrook, the next class of athletic point guards is tiny. In fact, if I personally had to pick one point guard to drive into the lane and give me the old-fashioned “And-1”, I would definitely pick Irving over Chris Paul and Damian Lillard (LIL-erd).
But are Irving’s NBA statistics Hall of Fame worthy? To answer that thought-provoking topic, I did some in-depth research on Basketball-Reference.com. To be honest here, I’m a big analytics guy when evaluating players. I don’t like to compare players in a calculator, but it is cool to see how efficient and valuable each player is according to next-level stats. And to be honest, the analytics usually tell you why Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Bill Russell have so many championship rings.
Anyway, let’s say Wins Shares are the best way to evaluate how many wins a player contributes to his team’s success. There are also statistics like Box Plus-Minus and Player Efficiency Rating, which I’ll get into later. But let’s get back to Wins Shares. Guess where Uncle Drew ranks among the first 250 eligible players for Wins Shares? He’s not even in the Top 250.
Now you might be asking, “Okay but he’s still playing. Surely Chris Paul and Dame Time can’t be on this list, right?” Well, you’d be wrong. CP3 is already 13th all-time in Wins Shares. Stephen (STEF-in) Curry is in 78th place, and Lillard is in 131st place.
The fact that Irving isn’t on this list also relates to other factors. For example, Irving didn’t need to contribute a lot on the defensive end during his tenure in Cleveland because he had LeBron James, Tristan Thompson, and Iman Shumpert to help him on the defensive rotations. Also, when Irving played in Boston, it wasn’t his job to be the defensive leader on the court because he had Marcus Smart to do his dirty work for him.
Also, Wins Shares don’t necessarily tell the fans how efficient each player is on a game-to-game basis. When you look at all-time Player Efficiency Rating, Irving is currently at a respectable 32nd place all-time. But still, Chris Paul and Stephen Curry are presently ahead of him in P-E-R. This just tells me that Irving isn’t as phenomenal of a passer and doesn’t create offense nearly as well as Curry and Paul. Curry is of course the greatest jump shooter we’ve ever seen, with CP3 quite possibly being the most consistent distributor of the basketball.
Irving, meanwhile, is simply fantastic at creating his own shot. But you have to give credit where credit is due. Carmelo Anthony was notorious for stifling defenses with his fabulous isolation game, but Melo is only 84th all-time in Player Efficiency Rating. Irving has 32nd place honors.
Finally, let’s look at Box Plus-Minus. You probably know the basic concept of plus-minus, but here’s a brief refresher on the stat: Let’s say you’re on the court and your team scored 16 points and only gave up 2. This means your plus-minus, AKA the scoring differential, is +14.
Since your simple Plus-Minus can fluctuate over the season depending on your teammates and your overall health, Box Plus-Minus considers 10.0 BPM as an all-time great, 8.0 BPM as an MVP season, 6.0 as an all-NBA season, and so on and so forth. This just means that 10.0 BPM equates to 10 points per 100 possessions better than the average player.
The best NBA player of all-time in terms of BPM is Michael Jordan at 9.22. Kyrie Irving is currently in 29th place at 4.57. But still, Irving has a long way to go if he wants to be in the consideration of a Top 5 all-time point guard. “Chef Steph” is currently in 11th place in BPM, and Paul is presently in 4th place.
What do all of these analytical numbers mean? Well, in a nutshell, Irving needs to be around talented players. The Wins Share stat proves that Irving doesn’t necessarily create wins for a team by himself. His tumultuous run in Boston also proves that point.
But is Irving a selfish player? Well, he’s definitely an enigma. I still don’t understand why he couldn’t just show up to work after the White House riots. And honestly, he should’ve played during the NBA Bubble. But then again, it’s easy for me to say that when I don’t have the entire fanbase of the Brooklyn Nets on my shoulders.
As long as Irving comes back to work, puts on his freaking mask, and can help lead Brooklyn deep into the playoffs, then all is forgiven as far I’m concerned. I kind of get why Irving didn’t want to test his oft-injured shoulder during the NBA bubble last season, and he didn’t even have Kevin Durant last season as his teammate.
So with all of what I’ve previously explained to you, is Irving a Hall of Famer?
My opinion is yes, but it all depends on when he retires. Remember: Irving has suffered his fair shares of major injuries over the years, and I sometimes wonder if he even wants to play basketball into his mid-30s. He’s set financially for the rest of his life, and if he ends up winning a ring soon with James Harden and Kevin Durant (dur-ANT) on his team, I just don’t know if he feels like he has anything else to prove. Shoulder and knee problems are no laughing matter, so there’s a good chance that Irving could retire at age 30 or 31.
This is obviously not going to happen, but let’s say Irving retired during the 2021 offseason. This just means that Irving would be eligible for the class of 2025. I obviously don’t know who he’ll be competing against in 2025, but if the Nets won the NBA championship this season (or at least advanced to the NBA Finals), it would be hard to not consider Irving as a Hall of Famer. This would be his fourth appearance in the NBA Finals as a starting backcourt player, and I’m sorry, but every NBA Finals team has a great supporting cast. You can hate on Irving playing alongside LeBron, KD, James Harden, and Kevin Love all you want, but it’s not as though MJ-23 didn’t have any significant teammates. Scottie Pippen anyone?
The other question to answer is, “Does Irving’s scoring numbers fit the mold of a basketball player that should be remembered forever?” Irving is definitely an elite scorer when it comes to NBA history. He’s currently 31st all-time in points per game, which is better than such NBA legends as Charles Barkley, Hakeem the Dream, and Dwyane Wade.
In the playoffs, Irving is in 34th place in PPG. How about the analytics for his postseason statistics? He’s 34th in Player Efficiency Rating, 84th in True Shooting Percentage, 102nd in Offensive Wins Shares, and 57th in Offensive Rating.
We could go on and on here with his great and not so great statistical background. What really matters is considering if Kyrie Irving should be remembered forever in NBA lore. And honestly, the game-winning three-pointer that he hit in Game 7 versus the Golden State Warriors changed the game forever. If Irving doesn’t make that 3, perhaps Kevin Durant stays in Oklahoma City. SB Nation did a great job of recapping the extremely media-grabbing 2015-16 NBA season and its long-term repercussions for the players. If you haven’t yet watched the SB Nation Kyrie Irving rewinder video, I suggest that you watch it.
The fact of the matter is Irving’s 3-pointer means so much to many NBA fans, especially the very loyal Cleveland Cavalier fanbase. And when you look at his stats, it’s not as if Kyrie is undeserving of a spot in Springfield, Mass. That being said, his defensive numbers are pretty darn awul. He’s 235th all-time in postseason defensive rating. But then again, it’s not as if fellow point guard Steve Nash was a shutdown defender.
So should Kyrie Irving be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. But is he a first ballot Hall of Famer? I’d have to say yes, especially if the Nets get back to the Finals before Uncle Drew retires. You can hate on his flat Earth stance, but you can’t hate on Irving’s overall Hall of Fame candidacy.
But what do you think? Should Irving be elected into Springfield? Make sure to comment below and subscribe to Sports Broadcast Solutions.