Neymar & Kyrie: The Young Star Conundrum

There are certain ages that are benchmarks in life. 18 is when you’re officially considered an adult. 21 is when you can drink and for some of us, when you become a college graduate. 30 is the end of your days as a young adult and the prime of your life. And 50 is the half century mark.

But what about 25?

25 is a peculiar age. It signals that we’re old enough to not make childish decisions but young enough to come back from those mistakes. It is a age where we are trying to find ourselves and find our purpose. For athletes, it is the beginning of their prime years. When they are at their best and receive their first big pay day, but similar to regular individuals, athletes are also finding themselves at this age.

Bring in our subjects Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior and Kyrie Irving. Neymar and Kyrie are both going through major changes in their careers that are very similar despite being in completely different sports.

July 24th, reports came out that Kyrie Irving requested the Cavaliers front office to trade him. In the later days and weeks, more reports were released as to why Kyrie wanted to be traded, one of which being because he did not want to play with LeBron James anymore, which has not been confirmed. All that we know as of now is that Kyrie would like to play for another team.

August 2nd, Neymar informed Barceloa that he would like to leave the team after Paris Saint-Germain offered a $222 million transfer fee for the Brazilian striker. Like Kyrie, reports came out that Neymar did not want to play in the Messi shadow anymore, who is considered to be the best footballer in the ever.

So here we have two players, who are top tier players in their respective sports, on top teams in their respective leagues, playing second fiddle. Let’s keep going.

Kyrie’s camp has admitted that he would like to be the star of his own team. Kyrie has played with LeBron for the last three season, averaging 22 points and 5 dimes during that span. This past season was Kyrie’s best, averaging 25 points per contest and shooting 47% from the field, both new career highs. Despite putting up big numbers, the Cavs were still under scrutiny all season, much of the blame going towards LeBron’s supporting cast, that included Kyrie.

Switch over to Neymar, he is also coming off of great season’s playing alongside Messi at Barcelona. He joined the team in 2013 but only scored 15 goals in 41 appearances. The next two seasons afterwards he scored 70 goals in 100 games. In 2014-15 he tied Messi and Ronaldo for Li Liga’s top scorer with 39, also helping Barcelona win the Champions League that same season.

As you can see both players benefited from playing with all-time greats. Both players were in winning situations and on a path to illustrious careers, so why would they want to change that for an unknown path to glory. That is the conundrum of the young star.

The recent success of both players plays a part of their decision to want to be on their own, away from all-time greats like Messi and Lebron James; but With that decision comes scrutiny. Fans have accused Kyrie of being selfish, while also saying that he won’t be able to lead a team on his own. Neymar, on the other hand, is dealing with Barca fans - and football fans period - calling him a traitor and golddigger. He is also being criticized for choosing to go to a league that is less competitive than the Li Liga, and a team that has less star power than Barcelona.

Neither player has responded to the criticism and has been dealing with the reports - whether false or true - silently. Both players, like most young players, don’t have full control of the situation. At the age 25, we often make life-changing decisions without thinking things all the way through. This is not to say that neither Neymar or Kyrie didn’t think over their decision before making it, but both are making drastic career changes. 

Kyrie is under contract with the Cavs until 2019. He put the pressure on the Cavs to trade him but the Cavs do have to do it. Not to mention, with his recent success and being the closer, the asking price is going to be to rich for a lot of teams. Kyrie is a top-five point guard in the league with a good seven years of prime basketball ahead of him. Finding a partner to dance with on this trade will be hard for the Cavs but they may not be pressed to get rid of him. After LeBron destroyed any rumors that speculated he and Kyrie were on the verge of throwing blows, it was a sign that things aren’t as bad as they seem. Kyrie will have to wait for a trade and this will leak over into the season.

In Neymar’s situation, the league he is currently playing is not a fan of the move. Li Liga's chief, Javier Tebas, said the league will block the transfer and will not accept the money from PSG. Tebas accuses PSG of inflating that finances in order to lure Neymar. If this is the case, Neymar will have to stay in Barcelona until 2021 when his contract expires or a team with real money can afford. After Barca officially released him, his legal team had to directly deliver the money to Barcelona in order for the deal to go through. 

No matter which player or sport you choose to follow, both situations are very comparable. The biggest difference is Neymar's support from the Barca players and the lack of support Kyrie is receiving from the Cavaliers. At 25, both are crossroads in their careers. Their career decisions are signs of growth and confidence but can be mistaken for selfishness. Neymar will begin his new path this fall with his new squad but Kyrie will have to wait for a deal to get done. The fact that both athletes are the same age, going through career changes at the same time, should give you an idea of the mindset of a young star.