Shannon Sharpe states his belief that Game 3 of the 2024 NBA Finals is the biggest Finals game of Kyrie Irving's career. Screen grab: ESPN’s ‘First Take’

In the world of sports debate, there’s being a prisoner of the moment. And then there’s whatever Shannon Sharpe was doing on Monday morning.

During a discussion regarding the Boston Celtics taking a 2-0 series lead over the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals, the Hall of Fame tight end expressed his belief that that Kyrie Irving needs to do more. But while critiquing Irving’s Final performance — in which he has averaged 14 points through the series’ first two games — has hardly been uncommon, Sharpe took his commentary a step further when setting the stage for Wednesday’s Game 3.

“If the Mavericks are going to have any chance, Kyrie’s going to have to play better than what he’s played,” Sharpe said. “Unless Kyrie comes along with Luka [Doncic], they’re not going to have a chance. This is the most important game in Finals history for Kyrie Irving. He has to play better.”

Come again?

While there’s no questioning there’s plenty on the line for both Irving and the Mavericks in Game 3, the idea of it being the most important NBA Finals game of the 32-year-old guard’s career is more than a stretch. As you might remember, Irving previously played in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, in which he hit the game winning 3-point shot to give the Cavaliers their first championship in franchise history and the city of Cleveland its first major sports title since 1964.

Even putting the most famous moment of Irving’s career — and one of the biggest shots in NBA history — aside, Wednesday will mark the third time in his career that he’s played in a Game 3 of the Finals with his team facing a 2-0 series deficit. Who’s to say that this Game 3 is bigger than the ones he played in in 2016 or 2017? Let alone the Games 4, 5, 6 and, yes, 7, that he played in while helping lead the Cavs to their championship-winning comeback over the 73-win Golden State Warriors eight years ago.

Sharpe’s bizarre proclamation went unchecked by Stephen A. Smith, but was used for fodder in ESPN’s echo chamber on Tuesday’s episode of Get Up.

And while Tim Legler did his best to defend the First Take co-host’s position, noting the individual scrutiny Irving is currently facing, Zach Lowe was willing to say what most basketball fans — especially in Cleveland — were already thinking.

“I think it’s crazy to say that this game is the biggest game Kyrie Irving has ever played in in the Finals when he played in Game 7 on the road against a 73-win team,” Lowe said.

[First Take, Get Up]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.