The year started out with a treat for myself, a few fellow members of the media and some lucky consumers. We were invited by the good folks at Nike Philippines to take the court in the new #Kyrie3.
The treat was, training with the ADMU Blue Eagles, led by Coach Tab Baldwin. Every Kyrie cross and spin and juke and jab, we broke down to the fundamentals. Thirdy Ravena, the Nieto brothers, Aaron Black and Anton Asistio, together with Blue Eagles guard coach Yuri Escueta ran through various footwork and dribbling drills that showed just how much science and preparation went into every Kyrie highlight.
Uncle Drew didn’t get that way overnight. And no matter how long it took him, it was going to take us a lot longer. If left on our own, we wouldn’t even know where to start. But the Kyrie 3 experience was about to take a far more serious turn.
Coach Yuri would proceed to meet with us, the not-so-fab five of the media on a weekly basis to teach, hone and sharpen our guard skills. Everything he does on the daily with Thirdy and Matt and Anton? He’d do with us. Only, you know, with far less success?
Full disclosure: during the initial session with Coach Tab, I was suffering from spasms on my shoulder and neck (I’m serious. It sounds like I’m whining but I could not for the life of me dribble the basketball without feeling like I was going to die. Promise you) which forced me to sit that session out. The first two sessions with Coach Yuri fell on work days so needless to say, I was left behind progress-wise.
I jumped in with the group last weekend, their routines already ingrained, jargon already shared. I had played with and against them before, and I could immediately tell their footwork, quickness and ball-handling had all improved. Coach Yuri, I found, is insistent on details, a veracious prepper who always polishes the footwork, or the mechanics, or the strength required for a move before the actual move itself.
The drills varied, from dealing with the heavy ball, to cone drills, to speed tests and eventually a one-on-one drill to cap things off. We tried our best, we had our moments, but needless to say, none of us are replacing any of the Ateneo guards anytime soon.
The experience though, is enlightening. I had played my own share of benchwarming varsity basketball in high school and college. I can still remember the daily practice grind, the preseason two-a-day’s, the late night weight sessions. But to undergo such a specialized program, one not just suited for guards, but one that also examined what makes the world’s best – Kyrie Irving – so damn good with the handle, it’s been a ride like no other.
Two years ago, to the exact same day, I was also lucky enough to be the first in the country to try the Kyrie 1. Life was different then, the world was different then. Kyrie wasn’t a champion yet, he hadn’t hit the biggest step-back three in history yet.
He was however, him. Still the guy he’s always been. Still the man he’ll always be. JBY, it said on the Kyrie 1 two years ago. JBY it says on the Kyrie 3. Just Be You.
Train like him. Wear his gear. Rock his shoe. Cut like Kyrie. But at the end of the day, my biggest takeaway from this experience so far has been this: No one does it exactly like Kyrie. At the same time, no one can do it the way you do it. Whether it’s a cross-between-behind, past the defender or it’s the job, or a hobby, or any litte quirk.
Work hard. Improve. Get the best gear (and coach, if you’re lucky) to help you. But always, always, do it like Kyrie. Which means don’t do it like anyone does.