Kyrie Irving's NBA idol and mentor was the late Kobe Bryant. Just over one year after his death, the Brooklyn Nets superstar has an idea for how to honour his legacy.
It started with an Instagram post on Wednesday, the one-year anniversary of the memorial for Kobe and his daughter Gianna, when Irving shared a modified version of the NBA logo with an image of Bryant front and centre. The caption read: "Gotta happen, idc what anyone says. BLACK KINGS BUILT THE LEAGUE."
When speaking to reporters after the Nets' win against the Orlando Magic on Thursday night, he reaffirmed his stance.
"My thing is paying homage to the example that has been set by that man, he was the standard for our generation and he will continue on," Irving said. "I think he deserves it, I think his family deserves it, I think we deserve it -- seeing greatness personified as Mamba. Anyone that's coming into the league should know that that's the example that was set."
The NBA tenures of Irving and Bryant overlapped for five seasons, and their connection ran deep.
When Irving was a young superstar playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers alongside LeBron James, he sought out Bryant's advice on how to co-exist on the court and in the locker room with one of the NBA's best -- a subject Bryant new a thing or two about after his famed partnership with Shaquille O'Neal in Los Angeles. During the Cavaliers' 2014-15 playoff run, Irving was experiencing knee pain that eventually required surgery. For that, he leaned on Bryant's wisdom, too.
"The year after the memorial, it's just a refresher that this is the guy for us," Irving said. "This is the guy for me -- more than just an inspiration, I took a lot of knowledge and wisdom from that guy and he's always around me."
Irving's initial post advocating for the logo to be changed, which had been liked over 1.2 million times by Thursday evening, drew support from around the sports world.
Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony commented saying "only right," while Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Dez Bryant commented "facts." Vanessa Bryant, Kobe's widow and Gianna's mother, re-shared Irving's post to her Instagram story, supporting the suggestion by simply writing "love this."
Since the helicopter crash that killed Kobe, Gianna and seven others in January last year, the idea of remodelling the NBA's logo in honour of the Lakers legend has gained traction online. A change.org petition, which was started shortly after news of Bryant's death broke, has had over 3.2 million signatures as of early Friday morning.
Currently, the silhouette for the logo is that of NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West, who said in 2015 he supported the idea of the logo someday being changed but believed it would be to that of Michael Jordan's image.
"I don't want to discredit any of our other historical players that have done amazing things for the league," Irving said. "I'm not discrediting anyone when I say that Kobe should be the logo, because we have so many examples of guys who did things on and off the floor that were leaps and bounds for us to be where we are now.
"...We want to set a precedent and a standard that this is excellence. Kobe Bryant. Logo. Yes, needs to happen, I don't care what anyone says. Black Kings built the league. That's exactly what I meant and exactly where I stand."