Summer Olympics previews: NJ's Kyrie Irving seeking gold to go with NBA ring - Metro US

Summer Olympics previews: NJ’s Kyrie Irving seeking gold to go with NBA ring

Kyrie Irving is a walking factoid.

Did you know he was born in Melbourne, Australia, and that his dad was a pro hoops player Down Under?

Did you know he was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, and that he won the recent NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers?

And did you know he grew up in West Orange, N.J., played at Duke University for one year, and now lives in Cleveland?

The list is endless, but here’s the most current and timely factoid: Irving is leading Team USA at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, which officially kick off Friday night with the Opening Ceremony.

“This is a unique opportunity that you have to take full advantage of,” Irving said after a recent practice in Houston before the team departed for Rio.

Irving postponed his Olympic debut by four years because he wanted to represent his home country at the Games, not his birth country. He was on the shortlist to play for Australia at the 2012 Olympics in London, but he declined and decided to pursue a spot on Team USA for Rio.

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Turns out that decision was a good one, at least for American basketball fans. Irving has absolutely shined in his short NBA career, scoring 20.8 points per game, dishing out 5.5. assists per game, and making 86.5 percent of his free throws over his five years in the league.

Irving’s numbers have earned him three all-star team selections, rookie of the year honors, a three-point shootout title, and of course an NBA title with the Cavaliers in June.

He also played for Krzyzewski during his one year at Duke — which he cut short in order to enter the NBA draft — so he’s familiar with the legendary coach’s style.

Irving’s first taste of playing on the U.S. national team was in 2014 during the FIBA World Cup, in which he was named tournament MVP as he helped the U.S. win the two-week tournament that’s contested every four years.

Twenty-four months later, Irving is getting another shot at helping his home country win something big — in this case a shiny gold medal.

Irving is one piece of the Cavaliers’ “Big Three,” along with LeBron James and Kevin Love. The trio was formed before the 2014 season when James returned to the Cavaliers and Love was traded from Minnesota. That season, Cleveland finished second in the Eastern Conference and lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. They made up for the defeat this year by bringing Cleveland its first ever NBA title in its 46-year history.

“Moving from one thing to the next, but it’s just going to be great going for gold,” Irving said. “Being a part of something bigger than myself.

“It’ll go by fast and I just really try to really really relish in every single moment and enjoy every moment with these guys.”

Irving and his Team USA teammates will play China Saturday at 6 p.m. ET in Rio. With any luck, Irving will add a few more factoids to his resume when the tournament ends later this month.

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