IT'S THE FIRST day of school, September 2008, and a teenager navigates the hallways of St. Patrick High School, alone, fending off a twinge of panic. He senses the sideways glances. He hears the whispers. He notes the blatant [url=http://www.officialcoltsfootballshop.com/Nike-Henry-Anderson-Jersey.html]http://www.officialcoltsfootballshop.com/Nike-Henry-Anderson-Jersey.html[/url] stares. For a fleeting moment, the 16-year-old considers, Why did I do this? Why didn't I just leave well enough alone? He'd been content at Montclair Kimberley Academy, the tony private school where he'd racked up 1,000 points over his freshman and sophomore years, leading the team to a New Jersey Prep B state title. Everybody knew the precocious point guard, the one so innovative with the ball that the faculty flocked to games to see what he would do next.
The comfortable choice would have [url=http://www.officialcalgaryflames.com/Adidas-Dennis-Wideman-Jersey]http://www.officialcalgaryflames.com/Adidas-Dennis-Wideman-Jersey[/url] been to stay alongside his childhood friends from West Orange, the ones who'd been balling with him since fourth grade, who engaged in epic games of 21 in each other's driveways -- the ones who knew that their friend was different when a piece of his backboard ripped off, and, after hundreds of attempts, he mastered a new shot [url=http://www.officialfootballrams.com/Gerald-Everett-Jersey]Gerald Everett Authentic Jersey[/url] that accounted for the trajectory of the ball off the damaged corner. But during countless AAU tournaments when he spent his free moments studying elite players, he wondered how he measured up. There was only one way for Kyrie Irving to find out.
So he transferred to St. Patrick, located in Elizabeth, about a half-hour drive south of Montclair. It was a national powerhouse program coached by Kevin Boyle, who'd mentored NBA pros Al Harrington and Samuel Dalembert. Now, as Irving wanders through a blur of faces in a maze of unfamiliar hallways, a boy in high-tops and jeans struts toward him.
"Who are you?" the boy asks. "I don't know who you are." Irving doesn't respond. He knows exactly who this freshman is -- it's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, one of the top high school prospects in the country. Irving is all-but-unknown outside his prep-school bubble. Still, Kidd-Gilchrist has been notified by Coach Boyle that this scrawny kid is hoping to join their team, and Kidd-Gilchrist feels compelled to size him up.
A few weeks into the school year, Kidd-Gilchrist begins hearing stories that Irving is blowing past everyone in preseason pickup games and converting crazy finishes. "I'm thinking," Kidd-Gilchrist says, "Well, that's fine, but he can't score on me." The first day of practice, Kidd-Gilchrist heaves the ball at the bashful, taciturn newcomer and chortles with a half-smile, "You and me. Let's go."
Over the course of the next 10 minutes, Kidd-Gilchrist comes to understand. Irving lifts his head to snatch the ball, then reveals his ballhandling wizardry. He dribbles left, then right, then left again with so much deftness, it's as if the ball is on a string. He explodes forward, then glides back before launching a textbook jumper. Kidd-Gilchrist inches closer, but as he does, Irving zooms past him to the basket, lofting one-handed floaters and twisting layups. His new teammates are watching now, congregating in a semicircle as Kyrie blitzes the best player on one of the top high school teams in the country.
Kidd-Gilchrist is stunned by the ferocity with which this seemingly reticent kid attacks not just the rim but also him. "He wasn't afraid," Kidd-Gilchrist says, "of anybody.'' Irving and Kidd-Gilchrist went on to lead St. Patrick to a championship that season. A year later, Kyrie committed to Duke as one of the top point guards in the nation. His decision to switch high schools was the first time in his life that he revealed an insatiable thirst for new challenges, no matter how daunting -- or inexplicable. "I had to show them I could play with them," Irving says. "And, after a while, I had to show them I could dominate them."
For many, the swap from the Cavaliers to the Celtics last August was vexing. Irving was a champion on a contending franchise with a transcendent star, LeBron James. Who walks away from that?
What they didn't know was Cleveland had explored trading Kyrie in June, long before he asked out, a fact conveniently omitted when word of his demand leaked. Irving made the decision to remain silent while the details of his request were, in his word, "distorted." I didn't feel the need to say anything because I knew the truth, and so did they," he says. "So it didn't matter what others said." Still, for a split second, Irving winces, as though someone has pricked him with a pin.
"They didn't want me there," he says.Seven days later in Cleveland, James has just put the finishing touches on a win over Atlanta, the Cavaliers' 15th victory in their past 16 games. He conveys through the Cleveland public relations [url=http://www.authenticyankeesshop.com/authentic-17-matt-holliday-jersey.html]Womens Matt Holliday Jersey[/url] staff that he has already addressed Irving's departure and will decline to answer questions regarding their relationship. Now, as he stands near his locker at Quicken Loans Arena, he's asked about Irving's contention that the Cavs didn't want him.
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