By Benjamin Horney, Assistant Editor
Halfway through a grueling 82-game regular season in which he’s likely faced more scrutiny than ever before, Kyrie Irving has no time to rest during the All-Star break.
For many players, the annual mid-February recess is a chance to reboot, and give their nagging injuries a breather. But not for the 22-year-old Cleveland Cavaliers point guard and Eastern Conference All-Star reserve, who spent the week zipping from event to event throughout New York City, signing hundreds of autographs each day, taking countless pictures with fans young and old, and likely answering the same tired questions from reporters seeking a scoop.
“I have not had any free time,” Irving told NY Sportscene on Friday evening during his hour-long appearance and autograph session at a midtown Manhattan Footlocker.
The line of a few hundred people waiting to get Uncle Drew’s signature on everything from fresh pairs of his newly-released Kyrie 1’s to basketballs and t-shirts stretched outside the store and down the block. Irving, who grew up less than 20 miles away in West Orange, New Jersey, shook hands, took selfies, and chatted with the people who weren’t too starstruck to speak, sometimes to the point where security was forced to politely usher lingerers away.
More than a half hour and at least 100 mini meet-and-greets in, Irving was approached by a Foot Locker employee who quietly asked how many more people he was willing to take.
“All of ‘em, all of ‘em,” Irving said with his usual calm demeanor, as the line continued to swell.
Once the hour was nearly up and every last fan had received their face time, the three-time NBA All-Star and former Rookie of the Year took a couple of minutes to chat with a small group of reporters. Asked how tired he was on a scale of 1-10, Irving replied “Zero. I’m not tired, I don’t get tired.”
The impromptu interview touched on how he manages to keep life in perspective, his hectic schedule during the so-called All-Star ‘break,’ and his first signature shoes.
“It’s truly a blessing and an honor to be a part of a great lineage of guys who’ve come before me and laid down the foundation,” he said of being the latest addition Nike’s collection of stars with signature shoes.
Irving, who was actually born in Australia but moved to the U.S. before his third birthday, raved about his new kicks, which were first released in December.
A new “All-Star” themed edition was released this week, and Irving’s Friday appearance was part of Foot Locker’s “It Must Be February” campaign. Irving coyly teased new colorways of the kicks to come, offering no further details behind his familiar sheepish grin.
“You’ll just have to wait and see for that,” he said. “But I do have some creative things coming out that I really put my heart into.”
Before being whisked away into the freezing cold New York night, Irving offered one reason he’s been enjoying all the All-Star chaos — the fact that he’s gotten spend the week so close to home.
“I’m right across the bridge” he said. “And I have my family here, which is the only thing that really matters to me.”
Here are some photos that New York Sportscene’s Benjamin Horney took from the Foot Locker NBA All-Star Event