Even before they teamed up in Brooklyn, Kevin Durant showed high praise and then some for Kyrie Irving. After beating Kyrie and the Cavs in the ’17 NBA Finals, KD was so impressed with his play that he might’ve taken it a step too far.
Kyrie is better than AI to me. I’m going from like skill for skill. His handle is better. We might have to cut that out—I don’t want no problems with AI. Y’all might have to cut that one. I don’t want that to get out. I’m just saying I feel like Kyrie got more skill.Kevin Durant, The Bill Simmons Podcast
Kyrie’s skill set is so great it’s in a way deceiving. Watching him play, or even going up against him, can lead to almost an impulsive impression, as his incredible handles and finishing ability have a capturing effect. And KD got captured by a five-game series. What he thinks was an eye-opening stretch of games, in reality, only blurred his vision.
And I get it; he’s entitled to pick one over another. But I don’t see how one can make a case for Irving over Iverson, regardless of how great Uncle Drew is. Because this isn’t a five-game stretch comparison, this is comparing them on an all-time scale. And sure, he’s ‘going skill for skill.’ But even then, what’s the case for Irving over AI? He may as well be the better ball-handler, but what else can you say he’s definitively better than The Answer? And then there are numbers and accolades.
Iverson led the league in scoring four times and was its leader in steals three times. He also led the NBA in minutes played eight times over his 14-year run. Kyrie has never led the NBA in anything. AI averaged over 30 five times during his career. Irving’s highest scoring average was this year’s 27.4 PPG, but bear in mind it was only in 20 games played. Kyrie is more efficient, with a career %TS of .572 compared to AI’s .518., but it’s compensated with Iverson being a better playmaker, despite, for the most of his career, not being surrounded with the level of talent Irving has and is about to play with.
Irving, of course, is an NBA champion, and that’s something that is missing on AI’s resume. But do the ’01 Sixers make the NBA Finals with Irving on their roster instead of Iverson? I don’t think so. Would Iverson have a ring had he played alongside LeBron? I do think so. And we haven’t even dived into how big of an icon Iverson was and is today. But that’s not what this argument is about. It’s about them as performers on the basketball court and the skill showcased night in and night out.
Even without the impact on the league argument, I would still side with AI on this one. Most NBA fans would. Kevin Durant wouldn’t – and that’s fine. He can help Kyrie’s case as the two are now teammates with the Nets. But Irving still has a long way to go.