Kyrie Irving is back in the NBA Finals seven years after he last made it while playing alongside LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017.

And James had high praise for his former teammate and current Dallas Mavericks star, saying on a recent podcast that Irving is “the most gifted player the NBA has ever seen.” 

James is not the only one with such praise. Skip Bayless voiced his agreement on Wednesday’s edition of FS1’s “Undisputed.” 

“If I just go inch for inch, Kyrie is the most gifted player I’ve ever seen,” Bayless said. “He is more gifted than [Allen Iverson] was and I love [Iverson]. A.I. can leap out of the gym in ways Kyrie can’t, but Kyrie has a handle that even A.I. did not have. … Kyrie’s handle is spectacular, off the charts, never seen before.” 

However, former NBA champion with the Boston Celtics and 2008 finals MVP Paul Pierce disagreed with Bayless. When Bayless argued that no one had Irving’s  “magical handles,” Pierce disagreed, arguing that Basketball Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas “had that handle.”

But, Bayless was adamant on his position that the 6-foot-2 Irving is able to handle the ball in a way no one in the NBA has. 

“Just shot creation. I have never seen anything like Kyrie,” Bayless said. “Just creating the shot, figuring it out on the fly, where if that doesn’t work I’ll go over here, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll make this work. As LeBron said on his podcast, if Kyrie is not feeling real good about his right hand on a certain night, he’ll just start shooting left-handed, and he is just as good left-handed as he is right-handed.” 

Irving has assembled a stellar NBA career, highlighted by winning the NBA Finals with James and the Cavaliers in 2016. Now, he is focused on winning a title with the Mavericks — while also returning James’ praise.

However, Pierce argued with Bayless that James’ assertion was about who is the most gifted player in the NBA, without height being considered. 

“We aren’t talking about your height,” Pierce said. “Because we could say the same thing about Kobe [Bryant] then.” 

But Bayless said that while 6-foot-6 stature of Bryant and Michael Jordan helped them be considered some of the greatest basketball players of all all time, those were “intangible packages”, whereas the “tangible package” of Irving’s skillset is what separates him in Bayless’s mind.

LeBron crowns Kyrie Irving as the ‘most gifted’ NBA player ever

“As I was around Jordan, knowing Jordan, covering Jordan, as I always used to say, he is a supremely gifted overachiever. He has the intangible package going with the tangibles.” Bayless said. “We are not talking about the intangible packages, because if we could throw those in with the tangibles, then Jordan goes off the charts … LeBron’s not talking about that. We are just talking about gifts. Kyrie is as clutch as they come. At 6-foot-2, he is clutch.” 

With the 2024 NBA Finals starting Thursday, Irving in has another opportunity to show that skillset on basketball’s biggest stage.

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