Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving still haven’t taken the court together for the Brooklyn Nets, but on Tuesday, they teamed up on the airwaves. Durant is in the podcast game now, and on Tuesday, he debuted his new show, “The ETCs with Kevin Durant,” in style by bringing on Irving as his first guest.
The two obviously had plenty to talk about, and they covered a number of interesting topics. But by far the most noteworthy moment from the show was when Irving discussed the time he challenged Kobe Bryant to a game of one-on-one in 2012. Back then, Irving was coming off his rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers and was a part of the USA Basketball Select Team, which was brought in to practice against the Olympic squad ahead of the London Games.
You can actually watch their exchange on YouTube, which includes Irving telling Bryant, “you’re not gonna lock me up.” But despite making such confident proclamations, Irving revealed in his conversation with Durant that he was actually so nervous beforehand that he practiced what he was going to say in the mirror. As transcribed by Nets Daily:
“I walk over there and my heart’s pounding, bro. I don’t know why. And I’m like, I’m about to go talk with Kobe. I’m like, honestly, I’d beat you one-on-one bro. And I practiced the line in my head. Like when I get the chance Kobe, I could beat you one-on-one. I practiced in the mirror before I got there.”
“I’m going to go straight up like Kobe, man. Like I could beat you one-on-one. Honestly we should get this one on one game. Honestly I think you can’t guard me. I kind of went off script. And then Duke Blue Planet [from the university] was right there and they just captured the whole thing, the exchange.”
Irving also broke down Bryant’s reaction, which he learned about later.
“He was like ‘man, this mother——, this little kid Kyrie, he has the nerve to come up and talk to me?’ Mind you in any other situation, Kobe would’ve just strapped up his shoes, but I think he also had a mutual respect for me at that point early on in my life where it was like you know, $50,000 next year, let’s do it. We never got a chance to play, but after that point, I just studied him a lot more. My respect grew.”
This is a pretty amazing story, and learning details like this is one of the best parts about athletes starting their own podcasts and shows. They’ll always be more comfortable talking to each other rather than reporters, and that actually ends up giving us more insight than typical interviews.
It’s also another reminder of just how much reverence players had for Kobe. Irving is one of the most talented players in the game, and even early in his career had more skills than most. Eventually, that confidence shines through if you watch their entire conversation after practice, but beforehand, the mere thought of talking to Kobe was terrifying, even though Irving was already in the league himself.