Is Irving more Kobe or Stephon Marbury? | Bonehead Picks

Is Kyrie Irving more Kobe Bryant or Stephon Marbury?

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The news of the request by Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star guard Kyrie Irving to be traded shook up the NBA universe last week. Irving is coming off another strong NBA Finals that the Cavaliers lost to the Golden State Warriors and despite the Boston Celtics’ acquisition of Gordon Hayward, the Cavaliers are still the Eastern Conference favorites to make it to a fourth consecutive NBA Finals. The biggest reason the Cavs are Eastern Conference favorites is because of the continued excellence of LeBron James. Ironically, it is James that is potentially the biggest reason for Irving wanting to depart the Cavaliers. The relationship between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving isn’t the first NBA relationship that features chemistry issues between NBA All-Stars that have had success together.

The most memorable NBA duo of the last 25 years that broke up due to chemistry was the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant duo of the Los Angeles Lakers of the early 2000s. Before Shaq and Kobe established themselves as two of the 15 greatest players in NBA history, they were an incredible inside and outside duo that won three consecutive NBA titles from 2000-02. Although Kobe Bryant had established himself as a bonafide All-Star during those championships, Shaquille O’Neal was clearly the biggest personality on that team and the preeminent force with his three NBA Finals MVP awards. The differences in personality and desire for Kobe Bryant to succeed without Shaq led to the Lakers trading Shaq to the Miami Heat. Bryant had significant success after the trade of O’Neal after the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol and Bryant’s all time legacy was secured.

A budding young NBA duo of the last 25 years that broke up due to chemistry was the Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury duo of the Minnesota Timberwolves of the late 1990s. Although both Garnett and Marbury didn’t become NBA All-Stars while playing together, they showed a lot of promise early and led the Timberwolves to two consecutive playoff appearances. As a duo, Garnett and Marbury looked like a new age Karl Malone and John Stockton as a power forward and point guard combination. Unfortunately, Stephon Marbury had different plans and forced his way out of Minnesota likely due to being in Garnett’s shadow. Kevin Garnett would have a Hall of Fame caliber career without Marbury and win a NBA title in Boston while Marbury had significant production for a number of years before bouncing around in the NBA at the end of his NBA career. Stephon Marbury’s NBA career was solid but will not be perceived like his career in China.

Kyrie Irving’s career could potentially go either way in terms of being more like Kobe’s post-Shaq or Marbury’s post-Garnett. Like Kobe Bryant, Irving is a talented scorer who can score at every level, from deep, midrange, and in the paint. Like Stephon Marbury, Irving is a point guard who has been on numerous losing teams when he has been the best player on that team. His career path could end up as Hall of Fame worthy or in the Hall of Very Good.


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