CLEVELAND - Still not old enough to legally toast any of his accomplishments, Kyrie Irving joined one of the NBA's most elite groups.
And to top it off, he was named his city's top professional athlete — all in the same day.
Irving, the Cavaliers' dynamic point guard whose dazzling game belies his youth, was voted an All-Star reserve for the Eastern Conference on Thursday night, just hours before he was named Cleveland's top professional athlete for 2012, when he won the league's Rookie of the Year award.
"One of the best days of my life," Irving said backstage at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards.
Irving, who won't turn 21 until March 23, is the sixth-youngest player ever named to an All-Star team and one of only seven to make it before their 21st birthday. The other six: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Isiah Thomas and Shaquille O'Neal are either in the Hall of Fame or well on their way to induction.
"It's a big deal for me and a big deal for the city of Cleveland," Irving said after receiving his award before a ballroom filled with some of the area's top sports figures and civic leaders. "It means a lot. To be picked as an All-Star for the first time and be with those guys, to see those names on TV, it's truly a blessing."
Irving was at home alone watching the All-Star selection when his name flashed on the screen. He admitted to a solo celebration.
"I did jump around," he said. "I didn't do any backflips and cartwheels. I didn't want to get hurt."
Irving said his first phone call was to his girlfriend and the next to his father, Drederick, who raised him and his sister after their mother, Elizabeth, died when he was 4.
"It was an emotional moment," Irving said, "real emotional."
Soon after, Irving received a surprising text from his college coach, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.
"First time ever," Irving said smiling. "I don't think Coach K has ever sent one of his players a text. I didn't even know he could text. I think his assistant sent it for him. My freshman year at Duke he told me never to text him because he didn't know how to text. So, times are changing."
Irving said he's not intimidated about sharing the stage at the Feb. 17 game in Houston with the NBA's best players.
"I just hope I don't air ball my first shot," he joked.
Irving is the first Cavaliers player to make the All-Star team since 2010, when James was voted in as a starter. Irving is averaging 23.7 points, 5.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds, but his selection by the East head coaches wasn't a given because of the Cavs' woeful 11-32 record.
Cleveland coach Byron Scott didn't do any campaigning for Irving, who scored 40 points on Tuesday night in a win over Boston. Scott believed Irving deserved the selection and was thrilled that his peers agreed.
Scott, who greeted Irving with a big hug when he arrived at the Renaissance Hotel, doesn't think a first All-Star selection will change his young star. Scott said it only make Irving hungrier for more.
"The thing that keeps him going is continuing to have new goals," Scott said. "This year he's a reserve and next year he should want to be a starter. That should be his next step and in order to that he has to work even harder. The thing that is so good about him is that he's willing to work. He's going to continue to get better.
"And he's not 21 yet. He's well on his way to being one of the best."
Irving's double win was perhaps the highlight of the star-studded event, which brought out some of Cleveland's top sports celebrities. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and new coach Rob Chudzinski introduced themselves to guests eager to talk football. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer received a warm ovation as did boxing promoter Don King, who wore a sequined jacket and waved American flags while working the room as only he can.
Doug Dieken, who has spent 42 seasons with the Browns as a player and broadcaster, received a lifetime achievement award.
The show was emceed by ESPN's Scott Van Pelt.
- Sports & Recreation
- Kyrie Irving