“All’s my life I has to fight…” – Kendrick Lamar

Being an underdog is a good thing when you know better than the critics and so-called experts. Kyrie Irving is the type of NBA All-Star that no matter what, people don’t quite understand how good he really is.

He is a game-changing, smart, determined and disciplined point guard, who just so happens to be one of the best in the business. As a member of the media, I have been guilty of not realizing just how good Irving would be.

When he transferred to St. Patrick High School, he was teamed with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who was highly-touted, hotly-recruited, and well-known around the country. Together they played well, won the state championship during their junior year, and became McDonald’s All-American’s and Jordan Brand Classic participants in their senior season.

By the time he committed to play for Coach K at Duke, he was ESPNU’s top-ranked PG in the class of 2010. Through his first eight games as a collegian, he averaged 17.4-points, 5.1-assists, 3.8-rebounds, and 1.5-steals. In the ninth game, he suffered a toe injury that caused him to miss the remainder of the regular season. He returned for the NCAA tournament, and a loss in the Sweet Sixteen wound up his final game at Duke.

After suiting up just 11 times, he had enough confidence in himself to declare for the 2011 NBA Draft, and was subsequently taken by the Cavaliers with the No. 1 overall pick. Irving didn’t hesitate to make a splash, as he took home Rookie of the Year honors and was an All-Star by his second season in the L.

The point I’m trying to make is that people have doubted Kyrie Irving, yet he has always believed in himself, and continued to work on his game. He makes smart decisions, finds the open man, knocks down shots, has one of the most elusive handles in the League, and can score in bunches.

He is a very special athlete, and when Nike made the announcement that he would be getting his own signature shoe last year, it made perfect sense. Irving can assess game situations well, and his style of play makes his teammates better. He’s a fan favorite, and he’s relatable (special shouts to Uncle Drew).

The moral of this story is don’t underestimate Kyrie Irving. He is a proven winner, and the best is directly ahead of him. When LeBron James takes a moment during a nationally televised post game interview to sing his praises, that’s not hot air, it’s truth, and together he and Irving have become a dominant force on the court and off.

Anthony Gilbert is a SLAM contributor. Follow him on Twitter.