When do we call a basketball play borderline dirty? If you asked me, it depends on the situation. The aggrieved party will always claim it as an unnecessary play, while the instigator will, for the most part, deny its motive. In the Portland-Brooklyn game, an incident between Kyrie Irving and Nassir Little stirred up debates online: was it dirty or necessary?
Nassir Little answers Kyrie Irving’s postgame comments
Irving just returned from a lengthy absence in the NBA due to his vaccination stance, but he has already started some drama on the court. Nassir Little dove for the ball in the 4th quarter of the game between the Nets and Blazers. He made contact with Kyrie, who had to jump over to avoid stepping on him, but Irving awkwardly landed on his back. He laid on the court for quite some time but fortunately did not suffer any injuries. He was able to finish the game, which the Trail Blazers ended up winning.
Irving did not appreciate the move, who described it as bad play and unnecessary in the postgame interviews.
“I get Nassir wants to go for the ball but, it’s just like, bro, it’s just a bad play,” Irving said. “It’s all good. I could’ve broken my ankle or done something worse. There’s just no place in our game for it. I get the intent from Nassir ... But it couldn’t been avoided.”
Nassir, the man accused of the dirty play, fired back at the Nets star and claimed he doesn’t care about anyone as long as he’s just doing his job.
“I would never hurt someone on purpose, I have the utmost respect for Kyrie! But y’all are delusional if you think this is a bad play, and id do it again. Idgaf what y’all talkin about.”
Is Irving right to call it a dirty play?
To put some context on the topic, Portland was up five points with more than five minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. At this point, it’s still anyone’s ball game. So it’s understandable that Little had to dive for the loose ball; they had a chance to beat one of the best teams in the league. Also, in that play, the combo guard still had a chance to save it. Replays showed he touched the ball before going out of bounds.
When explained in football terms, Little dangerously tackled Irving, which could have ended badly, but he went for the ball, which makes the play valid. That’s a basketball play. Nassir has no history of deliberately hurting other players either. A quick look on his Spotrac page tells us he is on the last year of his rookie contract, which the club exercised. This means he is eligible to make $4.1 million next season. His current salary for this year is $2.3 million. Simply put, the guy is just trying to earn a contract.
As a role player, one of his tasks is to make the little plays that don’t show on the stats sheet; the hustle plays that no star player wants to do. Meanwhile, Irving has already earned millions and could retire anytime. He probably felt it was unnecessary because it could have ended his much-awaited return to the league prematurely.
Losing Irving to an injury would be devastating to the fans and Brooklyn. He might have overreacted to the play, calling it dirty, but he also needs to adjust his views on the game. Players do this for a living, and they get paid to do their thing, even if that means unintentionally hurting other players in the process. Kyrie Irving is not exempted from such incidents and should not expect to be given special treatments.