Kyrie Irving is in the middle of a career year, averaging 26.4 points per game and 6.2 assists per game for the Boston Celtics. He’s also been playing well enough to be considered one of the best players in the NBA right now. However, one thing that has prevented him from being recognized as such is his team’s poor record this season (26-27).

Kyrie Irving had a rough game against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night. He went down with a knee injury and ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported that he would be out for a while. Read more in detail here: kyrie irving injury update.

Kyrie Irving will be particularly driven to win an NBA championship this season after injuries ruined the Brooklyn Nets’ hopes last season. The top point guard injured his ankle in the first round of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics and never recovered, and the Nets went on to lose in seven games to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Irving is fully healed and ready to play in the 2021-22 season. And if winning a championship isn’t enough incentive, ESPN recently handed him additional ammunition by placing him 20th on their list of the best 100 NBA players, behind Khris Middleton.

On ESPN’s NBArank 2021 list, Kyrie Irving is ranked 20th.

Kyrie Irving can't be ranked behind Khris Middleton.

Kyrie Irving can't be ranked behind Khris Middleton. In the NBA playoffs, Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets dribbles up the floor against the Boston Celtics | Steven Ryan/Getty Images

ESPN revealed the NBA players rated 6-25 on their annual NBArank list on Thursday morning, and there were a few surprises.

Rudy Gobert, who won his third Defensive Player of the Year title in the past four years, sneaked in at No. 25. Jrue Holiday, a great defensive stopper, was ranked 23rd, ahead of offensive powerhouses Karl Anthony-Towns and Zion Williamson.

Nikola Jokic, who is ranked No. 6, could be the greatest surprise. Last season, Jokic was awarded the league MVP, but it didn’t seem to be enough to propel him into the top five. The 6-10 slots were filled by Joel Embiid, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, and James Harden after him.

Irving was ranked 20th on the list after earning his eighth All-Star appearance in the past nine seasons. And you have to scratch your head when you see some of the names ESPN placed above him.

ESPN’s rating should make Irving feel belittled.

It’s no small accomplishment to be voted the 20th greatest NBA player in the world by the Worldwide Leader in Sports, but Irving deserves to be higher on the list. Simply observe the player in front of him.

Khris Middleton snatched the 19th place from Irving. Khris Middleton, who has only been in two All-Star Games and has never averaged more than 20.9 points per game in a season. In seven of his ten NBA seasons, Irving has scored more than that.

Irving beat Middleton last season in points per game (26.9), field goal percentage (50.6%), assists per game (6.0), steals per game (1.4), and free throw percentage (92.2%), among other statistics. Irving remains the greatest ball-handler on the planet. Middleton isn’t capable of saying that about any aspect of his game.

What exactly are we talking about?

Middleton’s outstanding playoff performance last season helped lead his Milwaukee Bucks to a championship, but let’s not forget that Irving buried one of the most heroic baskets in NBA history to clinch the Cleveland Cavaliers’ crown in 2016.

I’ll take Irving over Middleton 100 times out of 100.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to move up the ranks.

Irving’s disdain for Middleton extends well beyond the fact that Middleton is placed ahead of him on ESPN’s list. You might argue that Irving, ahead of Donovan Mitchell (18), Trae Young (17), Jimmy Butler (16), Devin Booker (15), Jayson Tatum (14), Chris Paul (13), and Paul George, should be rated as high as 12th (12).

Irving has a potential to re-enter the top 15 conversation with another All-Star season and a Championship with the Nets, since ESPN clearly prioritizes titles in their rankings. Brooklyn is now the betting favorite to win it all in 2022, and the Nets will be difficult to defeat in a playoff series as long as their squad remains healthy.

Irving may have a breakout year if he gets some extra incentive going into the season.

Basketball-Reference provided all stats.

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RELATED: After ‘Very Positive Conversations’ with Kyrie Irving and James Harden, the Brooklyn Nets seem optimistic about their championship chances.

The kyrie irving walking stick is a gesture that Kyrie Irving has been using for some time. It’s a way to show his support and appreciation for the fans. However, ESPN decided to make fun of him with an article about his walking stick.

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