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Most Boston fans don't realize Kyrie Irving was a member of the Celtics team when he was 16 years old. He played his senior year at St. Patrick High School of Elizabeth, New Jersey and the team name was The Celtics.


Kyrie transferred to St. Patrick to challenge himself against tougher competition. That competition started against his new teammates, including current Charlotte Hornet, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (per ESPN's Jackie MacMullan):

He'd been content at Montclair Kimberley Academy, the tiny private school where he'd racked up 1,000 points over his freshman and sophomore years, leading the team to a New Jersey Prep B state title. Everybody knew the precocious point guard, the one so innovative with the ball that the faculty flocked to games to see what he would do next.

The comfortable choice would have been to stay alongside his childhood friends from West Orange, the ones who'd been balling with him since fourth grade, who engaged in epic games of 21 in each other's driveways -- the ones who knew that their friend was different when a piece of his backboard ripped off, and, after hundreds of attempts, he mastered a new shot that accounted for the trajectory of the ball off the damaged corner.

But during countless AAU tournaments when he spent his free moments studying elite players, he wondered how he measured up.

There was only one way for Kyrie Irving to find out.

"Who are you?" the boy asks. "I don't know who you are."

Irving doesn't respond. He knows exactly who this freshman is -- it's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, one of the top high school prospects in the country. Irving is all-but-unknown outside his prep-school bubble. Still, Kidd-Gilchrist has been notified by Coach Boyle that this scrawny kid is hoping to join their team, and Kidd-Gilchrist feels compelled to size him up.

A few weeks into the school year, Kidd-Gilchrist begins hearing stories that Irving is blowing past everyone in preseason pickup games and converting crazy finishes. "I'm thinking," Kidd-Gilchrist says, "Well, that's fine, but he can't score on me." The first day of practice, Kidd-Gilchrist heaves the ball at the bashful, taciturn newcomer and chortles with a half-smile, "You and me. Let's go."

Irving and Kidd-Gilchrist went on to lead St. Patrick to a championship that season. A year later, Kyrie committed to Duke as one of the top point guards in the nation.

"I had to show them I could play with them (St. Patrick teammates)," Irving says. "And, after a while, I had to show them I could dominate them."

Sounds like our Kyrie Irving, doesn't it? Well, in the victory last night against Lebron James' Cavaliers, he demonstrated how he keeps challenging himself to get better and do whatever it takes to win. The Kenmore Square billboard seems perfect. And well-timed.



Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

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Video via NESN

Tom Lane 1/04/2018 08:47:00 AM Edit
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