Kyrie Irving is as Australian as the Empire State Building. I don't even know why this is actually a debate. Let's face it, he hasn't lived here since he was two, has not even returned to our shores to visit since then but now is claiming that he wants to represent Australia at the summer Olympics in London next year. The problem I have and it's not just with Irving, many an international player has claimed 'dual citizenship' or found a (very) distant relative who once befriended a man of a certain origin and now finds themselves in that country's starting lineup at the European or World Championship, it's the fact that Irving is not even 100% certain he wants to represent the Boomers.
I have never met Irving, he does seem like an affable young man from the television interviews I've seen, but when he was questioned by an ESPN reporter about his allegiance his reply was, "I really think I'll have a better chance of playing for Australia than the USA just because I'm going to be a young player in the league. Just to be able to play for Australia, for my country, it just would be a great opportunity."
"When it applies to the Olympics, and making a decision, I have to claim Australia as my country. I'm happy for the USA. I played for the USA under-18 team, won a gold medal. I have no problem with that either."
That could easily be translated as, " I know Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo are all ahead of me in the pecking order on Team USA so I guess I have to claim Australia or I'll never get to play Olympic basketball. But just in case I have a chance to get selected on that team, I'm happy with that as well."
Is Irving invested fully into playing for the Boomers? Would he play for the national team if the Cavaliers (or whoever drafts him) applied some pressure on him and 'suggested' he miss some qualifiers or even tournament play? Should wearing a Boomers jersey mean more than the convenience of playing Olympic Games? That is not what we as a country should stand for. Grantley Bernard of the Herald-Sun tweeted earlier this evening that players who represent Australia should have contibuted to the development of the game at home and I fully agree with that statement.
You need to have been born and raised here for a good portion of your life, or if not and I'm using some of the Americans who have gained citizenship as examples, then you need to have contributed in some way to local basketball. Many of the naturalised Americans not only played here for a number of years, many of them still live here on a permanent basis. What has Kyrie offered the local scene or Basketball Australia? I was asked today whether I would want a talent like Irving on my team and the answer is yes. But not llike this and not at the expense of other Australians who have paid their dues rising through the ranks only to be told, 'sorry we have our new gun for hire, you're out.' Then what will we do? Trot Irving out at the Olympics, get to the medal rounds, thank him for his services and then we won't see him for another two, maybe four years?
This is not me hating on Kyrie, I think he is a tremendous talent and I would love for him to play for Australia if he had shown an inkling of claiming us as his country years ago. He didn't exactly turn the under-18 USA team down in preference of Australia back then did he? We've seen cases like this previously, somehow Chris Kaman found his way to the German national team last World Chammpionships but I didn't think we needed to go down the same path.
Ask Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills or Joe Ingles what it means to them to represent Australia and I guarantee it's more than just being able to play in the Olympics. Win or lose in past tournaments we could always hold our heads high because we knew the players were proud to represent their country and were there meritoriously. Is giving all that up worth the chase for a medal?