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Kyrie Irving is having one hell of a summer. The star point guard won his first NBA championship in June when the Cleveland Cavaliers came back to defeat the 73-win Golden State Warriors in seven games. In August, Kyrie will suit up for Team USA in the Olympics alongside the likes of Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Carmelo Anthony, and more, to compete in a tournament that in all likelihood will end in a gold medal.
The dream summer for Kyrie followed plenty of bumps in the road, including a lengthy recovery from knee surgery that took him out of the 2015 NBA Finals and a good portion of this year's regular season. Despite the setbacks, Kyrie showed up when it mattered most, teaming with LeBron James for legendary performances in games 5, 6, and 7 to bring "The Land" it's first title in over 50 years. Now a champion, Kyrie is ready to take on what's next in his career. Complex was able to catch up with the three-time NBA All-Star to talk about winning a title, his love of Call of Duty, plans for the summer, and the Olympics.
Has the euphoria from the NBA Finals set in yet?
I wouldn't say the historic part has sunk in. I would say that the actual championship has set in. The way we did it—coming back from 3-1—hasn't necessarily sunk in because it took everything that I've ever had to give to the game of basketball in order to win that [championship]. So I don't think it's fully sunk in, but probably in a week or two. [Laughs.]
It's good to prove people wrong in the process of doing great things, but they definitely don't make me get up in the morning...
I'm sure the past couple of weeks have just been a whirlwind of stuff going on.
The relationships that I've built with my mentors, my friends, my family, they knew exactly what happened in the last year. From everything. They all knew. I couldn't even get back to everyone, but the people that I got back to knew how special it all was. I'm glad my family, friends, and fans got a chance to witness what happened.
Did everything that happened over the last year—the knee injury and team turmoil—make the championship that much better?
The haters weren't my true motivation to why I wanted a championship. It's good to prove people wrong in the process of doing great things, but they definitely don't make me get up in the morning to prove them wrong. It was just that I think we really solidified our team, we solidified our statements about what we thought about ourselves and how great we felt we were as a team. We just finally solidified it. I just really remember Vegas (where the Cavs celebrated after Game 7) and the numbers and the odds of us coming back from 3-1. Everyone basically writing us off and they [the Warriors] were going to be repeat champions. All that noise was great. It just added fuel to the fire.
With the Warriors adding Kevin Durant, most people will look at the Cavs as underdogs even though you're the defending champs.
I don't know what that feels like. I don't know what it feels like to be an underdog. I never see myself as an underdog at any moment in my life. Coming into next season there will probably be some favorites, but I definitely don't see us as an underdog.
How important is it for you to play in the Olympics and for Coach K during his final run?
This is a very, very special tour for Coach K. It's his last one. It's a unique opportunity for the players we have on this team to bring back a gold medal. I feel like it's our time. It's the next generation of players that will be leading the NBA for some time, and of course including some players that did not come to Brazil. Some of the players on this team are legitimate players.
We have MVPs, we have championship winners, we have guys that have started All-Star games. We have an assortment of guys that are willing to sacrifice everything for a gold medal for their country. I can't wait to go to war with those guys because I know what to expect. I know what to expect out of me and I know what to expect out of them. Also, the camaraderie, the bond is just engraved forever if you win a gold medal and I'm excited to do that with the team that we have, as well as the coaching staff and everyone part of USA basketball. It's an opportunity that you just want to take full advantage of and you don't want to look back on it and kind of wish you could have done it a certain different way. We just got to win a gold medal and be successful.
Talk about your love of gaming and Call of Duty in particular.
I've been in love with it for quite a while now. I got to really see what went in to making Black Ops 3 and new content before everyone. It's very special to be able to connect with not only COD fans, but my fans as well through video games. There's really nothing like it and I'm just really excited about the new "Decent" release and the Zombies. [Laughs.] Me and my friends we go crazy over it and I'm really just excited about the opportunity to not only promote this but really play it. My first ever live stream happened, and though my numbers weren't great, our team won and that showed the effort.