Yes, Kyrie and Durant annoyed me plenty this season. I don't even mind the concept of a rich person being unhappy. We all have problems to deal with and at a certain point, no matter how many millions you have in the bank, if you can't have a day without people recognizing you and asking for a photo or a signature, that would be deeply annoying to me for sure.
What annoyed me is the narrative they are trying to build that everyone is against them and we are all just haters. Their chronic ability to take some criticism on the chin. A lot of their stuff isn't backed up by logic and/or facts. But that is the micro level. A sentence or a play gets over-analyzed and we are trying to use it and project the future.
What the players are right about we often lose sight of the big picture - the NBA is in an amazing place, a great entertainment product based on a game we love and enjoy, reaching a global audience and every year giving back to the fans and communities in significant ways.
The latest example of that comes from Kyrie, leading the cause of helping kids in Kenya have access to water. It sounds unbelievable from most of our perspective, but one of the leading causes of death in Africa is still dehydration. A simple case of diarrhea in the US or Europe is a matter of life and death in a lot of places.
Estimates are that over 19 million people in Kenya lack access to clean water. Kyrie joined Underdogs United and donated a signed game-worn jersey to be auctioned off and all the proceeds will help provide clean water for kids in Kenya. Irving inspired other athletes to join as well (via NBC Sports):
"Kyrie was the first high-profile athlete to commit to the Global Jersey Exchange, and his leadership really catalyzed the initiative,” said Stephen Gabauer, founder of Underdogs United. “Since Kyrie joined, we've partnered with over 100 professional athletes, including 10 other NBA stars (Golden State’s Stephen Curry being one of them). With their support, we've now reached over 10,000 children with safe drinking water. We're excited about Kyrie's auction and the lasting impact it will create in our partner communities for years to come."
Underdogs United also make Kenyan inspired jerseys for the athletes who participate in their auctions. Mariam Naipanoi, who designed Irving’s jersey, said it was one of the best moments in her life.
"I was a center on my high school basketball team, so I keep up with the NBA,” Naipanoi said. “To create an original design for Kyrie, influenced by my Kenyan heritage, is an opportunity I could only dream of. It's been amazing to see how this initiative is positively impacting our community and the health of our children."
Do players annoy me sometimes? Yes. Do I sometimes think they are acting like spoiled brats? For sure. These kinds of stories remind me of the big picture - we can be proud to be fans of a league with such superstars. All these players give back to their communities, hometowns, cities they play in and places they have heritage from.
If you want to support this cause and get a cool, signed jersey you can make a bid at gounderdogs.org. It's gonna be the best 260 bucks (current price, 5 days to go) you will spend on a sports jersey ever, I promise.