CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the video in the player above is from Jan. 19, 2021.
A moment more than three years in the making took place on Wednesday when the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrated Kyrie Irving with a tribute video at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
The video, which featured Irving's game-winning 3-point shot in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals and highlights from the ensuing parade, was played prior to the Cavs' tip-off against Irving's current team, the Brooklyn Nets. The 6-time All-Star proceeded to acknowledge the tribute, waving to fans and pointing to his ring finger.
Wednesday night's game -- which the Cavs won 147-135 behind 42 points from Collin Sexton -- marked just the second Irving has played in Cleveland since his 2017 trade request, which resulted in him being dealt to the Boston Celtics. The Cavs reportedly planned to honor Irving with a tribute video ahead of his first game back -- the 2017-18 season-opener -- but opted not to do so after Celtics forward Gordon Hayward suffered a broken leg in the first quarter.
In a Zoom call with reporters following Wednesday's game, Irving reflected on the six seasons he spent in Cleveland to start his career.
"I was drafted here and we had a few good pieces, you might say, and that's being generous," said Irving, who the Cavs selected with the No. 1 pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. "We were at the bottom and we had to start and work our way up. When [LeBron James] came back in my fourth year after killing it in Miami and doing what he was doing and he came and then [Kevin Love] came and just the ball got rolling really really quickly."