Nets guard Kyrie Irving hit one of the most recognizable shots in the history of basketball while wearing a Cavaliers uniform. He is eighth on the franchise's all-time scoring list despite having played just six years in Cleveland. Without his efforts in Games 5, 6, and 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, the Cavaliers may still be ringless.
On the other hand, Irving's exit from Cleveland was acrimonious, his relationship with the greatest Cavalier of them all, LeBron James, is famously complex, and his public engagement with anti-vaccinationism and antisemitism have landed him in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Thus, a question posed by Cleveland fans—should the Cavaliers retire Irving’s No. 2 jersey?—often inspires passionate reactions. To his longtime teammate, Cleveland forward Kevin Love, the answer is simple.
“Without a doubt. Absolutely. Right away, after his career ends,” Love told Cleveland.com after the Cavaliers lost 125–117 to Brooklyn Monday night. “It’s not even a question to me. He needs to be up there. He made the biggest shot in franchise history and one of the most important shots in Finals history when you consider how it all went down.”
Love and Irving were teammates, alongside James, on Cleveland from 2015 to ’17. The Cavaliers won conference championships each of those three years, and went a combined 161–85 in the regular season.
Shortly after Cleveland traded Irving to the Celtics in 2017, the Cavaliers issued No. 2 to then-rookie guard Collin Sexton.
In May, Irving expressed regret in an I AM ATHLETE interview over his exit from Cleveland and relationship with James.
“We didn’t talk during that time,” Irving said of James. “When I look back on what I was going through at that time, I wish I did, because it would’ve been a good understanding of what the future will hold for both of us and we know how much power we both had together. Me and him in the league together running Cleveland, and then being able to put a better team together every single year would’ve definitely been worth it.”