NBA source says Kyrie Irving’s toughness surprised him: ‘He was like a running back, the way he’d hit the holes’

Jonathan Sherman
3 Min Read
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Brooklyn Nets superstar guard Kyrie Irving is known for a lot of things, but toughness is not really one of them.

Irving, who has been heralded as one of the most skilled players in NBA history, had an incredibly unique 2021-22 NBA season. Due to his decision not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, he missed a huge number of games in the regular season. The decision made him a very polarizing player across the league.

An unnamed source that used to watch Nets practices told Joe Vardon of The Athletic that Irving’s toughness resembled that of a running back.

“One of the things that surprised me was how tough he was,” the source said about Irving. “He was like a running back, the way he’d hit the holes. At practice. I can’t say [Spencer] Dinwiddie was like that.”

Without a doubt, it takes a certain level of bravery to be a smaller NBA player that is willing to cut towards the basket and try to battle it out with defenders that are much taller and stronger. Irving has a reputation of doing just that. It’s why he has had countless acrobatic finishes near the rim during his career.

In the 2021-22 season, Irving averaged an impressive 27.4 points, 5.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. He also shot 46.9 percent from the field and 41.8 percent from deep.

However, due to his decision to not receive the vaccine, he ended up playing in just 29 regular season games. In the playoffs, he played in just four games because his Nets were dominated by the Boston Celtics en route to a four-game sweep.

It’s a widely held belief that one of the reasons why the Nets fared so poorly in the playoffs was because Irving and Kevin Durant played together for so few games during the regular season.

So, while Irving may be tougher than most people suspect, all that toughness doesn’t do much good when it isn’t on the court.

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Jonathan has worked as a sports writer covering NBA and NFL news since 2017. He's a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Vikings.