It is easy to forget that Kyrie Irving is still one of the best basketball players in the world today.

Irving’s tendency to make controversial statements is unquestionably problematic and tends to overshadow his on-court brilliance. His lengthy injury history has not helped either and has slowly pushed him out of the public consciousness in recent years.

In addition, the fact that he now plays for the Dallas Mavericks alongside one of the brightest young stars in the NBA today in Luka Doncic only makes him even more of an afterthought.

Once in a while though, the eight-time NBA All-Star puts together a string of brilliant performances that reminds everyone that he is still elite like what he has done so far this January. After missing most of December with a heel contusion, Irving returned for the Mavericks’ first game of 2024 and has been nothing short of spectacular since then.

The 31-year-old Irving averaged 35.8 points on 51.2% field goal shooting, 9.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 2.6 steals, and 1.2 blocks over Dallas’ first five games this January before putting up a season-high 44 points in their sixth contest this month–a 128-124 win against the New York Knicks.

What made Irving’s performance even more impressive was that he did this against a Knicks team that was the hottest team in the NBA heading into the match and without Luka Doncic who was sidelined with a minor leg injury. This meant that the 13-year veteran was the focus of New York head coach Tom Thibodeau’s top tier defensive schemes, yet he was unfazed and rose to the challenge.


Irving made 15 of his 26 field goal attempts, including six-of-10 three-pointers, despite being covered by the Knicks’ newly acquired stopper OG Anunoby throughout the night. He also added four rebounds, 10 assists, and two steals in his 39 minutes of play to complete his all-around performance. 

With the win, the Mavericks snapped the Knicks’ five-game winning streak and improved to 4-1 in their on-going seven-game homestand. Irving’s return has provided a much-needed shot in the arm for a Dallas team that lost some ground in the standings during December. The Mavericks are currently seventh in the West with a 23-16 record, but are actually just four games behind the Minnesota Timberwolves for the top spot in the conference. In this tight field, one extended winning-streak could very well spell the difference between earning home court advantage in the first round and missing the playoffs altogether.

As presently constructed, this Dallas team is far from ideal and does not profile as one that can legitimately contend for the title this year. However, Doncic and Irving, if they can remain on the floor, have enough talent between the two of them to carry this team deep enough into the postseason to the point where a few lucky breaks could allow them to stumble into the NBA Finals.

They may not be a serious contender at the moment, but they are a bona fide dark horse that cannot be taken lightly. Irving is as important as Doncic in making this team work and if he can keep up the form that he has shown this January, this Mavericks team just might pull off a few surprises in the coming months.