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Kyrie Irving: ‘When things become overwhelming in life, you’ve just got to take a step back’

Nets star Kyrie Irving

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 01: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets points during the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at Barclays Center on January 01, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Hawks won 114-96. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

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The last time we saw Kyrie Irving, he was away from the Nets and violating the NBA’s coronavirus protocols to dance with his sister at her birthday party. He looked overjoyed.

Irving returned to the team and addressed the media today, explaining how much he loves basketball. “Happy to be back,” Irving said. “Happy to be around these guys.”

He looked miserable.

Irving provided few details about his absence.

“A lot of family and personal stuff going on. So, just want to leave it at that.”

“Just needed a pause.”

“When things become overwhelming in life, you’ve just got to take a step back and realize what’s important.”

Irving spoke of how his involvement in basketball has transformed. He described falling in love with a pure version of the game and seeing the league as a fan. Now, as an NBA player, he holds greater responsibilities. Don’t get him wrong. Irving said he’s “grateful” to have his platform. But his his perspective has evolved.

“Now that my life has changed, with that change comes accepting that there are older versions of me that I didn’t necessarily like or things that I would like to do different,” Irving said.

“This world is a wacky place at times. But as long as we persevere together and as long as we continue to just tell each other the truth about how we feel about each other – that’s a big thing. I just want honesty. And in order to be honest, I’ve to be honest with myself. And that’s the first thing. I know I can talk in circles, and I know all these words get used. But I’m just being honest here. It’s been a lot to balance.”

Irving’s self-reflection (especially admitting he talks in circles) is commendable and endearing.

As his philanthropy:

Irving must determine what makes him feels fulfilled. That appears to be an ongoing process. But in terms improving the lives of people he cares about, he does so much by earning more than $30 million annually and distributing money to worthy causes. He’ll continue to earn so much money only by continuing to play high-level basketball.

That’s part of his balancing act.

“I called for help,” Irving said. “And now I just have so many mentors and so many people reaching out and just taking things off my plate that were never mine in the first place, and they are better-suited for that position. So, I’ll play my role on this big team of changing the world, and others can do the same.”

Now, one of Irving’s roles is trying to fit with Kevin Durant and James Harden on the new-look Nets. Irving said the franchise supported him throughout his absence.

“It’s been great,” Irving said. “It’s been enough support for me to feel like they have my back. And that’s all I can ask for – supporting not only me, but my family. I’m a hometown kid, so things hit a little different when family and personal stuff going on. And that’s up to me to handle that as a man.

“I just take fully accountability for my absence with the guys and just had a conversation with each one of them, and we move on.”