Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith discussing Kyrie Irving's past controversies Photo Credit: Inside the NBA on TNT

Kyrie Irving is, undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons for the success that the Dallas Mavericks have enjoyed in the playoffs. Prior to Dallas’ loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, Irving’s past was discussed.

Irving famously found himself in hot water after promoting an antisemitic film on his social media account back in November of 2022.

Many media members understandably ripped Irving for both this action and his lack of regret over the entire situation. But out of all the media members to speak about the situation publicly, perhaps none were as blunt as Stephen A. Smith.

Smith spent countless weeks speaking about Irving after the controversy began, calling out Irving’s “arrogance” throughout the situation and even telling him to “quit basketball” if he didn’t like how the media was handling the controversy.

Irving was a member of the Brooklyn Nets at the time, later being traded to the Mavericks. And the rest is history. Even after Tuesday’s loss, the Mavericks lead the Western Conference Finals 3-1 and are in position to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2011.

So, how did we get to this point with Irving? According to Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley, it has been due to personal growth from Irving during his time in Dallas.

On Inside the NBA ahead of the Mavericks-Timberwolves Game 4 matchup on Tuesday night, both Smith and Barkley discussed Irving’s past controversies.

“I’m just excited that we’re talking about him,” said Smith. “There has been a constant change in the thought process about him by the mass media. As a basketball player, we’re not talking about his political or social stances and looking at him in a negative view. I’ve never said it to Kyrie, but I’ve said it to Stephen A. (Smith). At one point, Stephen A. was an advocate of having a battle with this guy. I had to call Stephen. I’m like ‘This guy is from our neighborhood’. I named like six people. These guys that mentored you mentored him.

“When you say something about him, you’re actually saying it about us. He understood and kinda fell back. As a media person, we have to understand that young men go through young things. They grow up, they learn things, and they appreciate things from a different viewpoint than we might have had. But as a basketball player, you have to double this guy! If you don’t double this guy, you go home in four. That’s the difference with this Kyrie.”

Barkley then offered his thoughts on Irving, holding the eight-time All-Star a bit more accountable than Smith did, but also crediting him for “growing up”.

“All that stuff is good,” said Barkley. “But he self-inflicted himself. He’s gotta take some responsibility. I think he has grown up. I think he has matured. Stephen A. and other people criticized him and he rightly deserved it. You can’t go out there and be antisemitic. You can do the vaccination thing, that’s you’re own thing. But he deserved the criticism he got, he deserved the suspension he got.

“But as a basketball player, I think he has really grown up. I thought after Game 1, that was a grown man in full flight. I’ve never seen him that happy. We’ve all made mistakes, but at some point, you have to grow up. And I think he’s grown up.”

Regardless of whether he has grown up off the court or not, his performance on the court this series has been nothing short of exceptional, averaging 27.6 points per game in the first three games of the series.

However, the Timberwolves were able to take Game 4 of the series on Tuesday night. So he and the Mavericks will need to regroup as they look to close out the series in Minnesota in Game 5 later this week.

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About Reice Shipley

Reice Shipley is a staff writer for Comeback Media that graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Sports Media. He previously worked at Barrett Sports Media and is a fan of all things Syracuse sports.