Before he died Johann Sebastian Bach wrote his Mass in B-minor. Assembled in 1749, Bach’s work included a choral piece, Kyrie. The song , written to mourn the loss of a German leader, is reverent but melancholy. It’s measured and dignified, but it speaks to a dark desire for mercy.
The song concludes with a dramatic build-up starting with the bass voices droning in Greek, “Kyrie eleison”(KEE-ree-AY AYE-lay-son) — which loosely translates to “Mercy, Lord”—until all the voice parts join back together to acknowledge a need to continue forward, to sit back as the Heavens provide the Earth with another great leader. The final note rings with such punctuated certainty, one can’t help but feeling overwhelming peace.
The song is a story of rising from the ashes, touching light from the darkness, and to this day the “Kyrie” is not only regarded as one of Bach’s greatest works, but as one of the greatest compositions in history.
264 years later, that same spirit has found itself manifested in the city of Cleveland. Only now, the composer is the namesake.
For those basketball fans that have lived under a rock the last two years, Kyrie Irving is Cleveland’s answer to their fallen king. He’s the man of the people that, quite like Bach, is earning his respect like a fine wine: over time. He’s what Cleveland fans prayed for after Lebron left them in a pile of rubble.
Kyrie, eleison. Mercy, Lord.
Irving is quickly becoming of the most recognized and respected names in the NBA. ESPN the Magazine recently highlighted Irving as a NEXT Level athlete in a great profile on the young gun from Duke. Everyone from Lebron to Kobe to opposing coaches are quick to praise the 20-year-old.
Cleveland knew it was getting a leader two years ago when it had the draft’s top pick, but after the Lebron debacle, they never thought they’d get a guy like this. Irving is on a scorecard-ripping tear over the last five games. He’s averaging 31 points, on 55-percent shooting. He’s hitting 40-percent from beyond the arc and a comfortable five assists. He’s been the driving force behind their four wins in the last five games.
And after Kyrie Irving’s game-winner over the Raptors, the punctuation mark that echoes to the gods in Bach’s “Kyrie,” rang again. Irving, like it was written, calmly walked down the court and heroically sank the three-pointer. The entire city of Toronto was begging, “Mercy, Lord.”
In many ways, Irving’s play is like a symphony. He can dribble in long strides like legato, flowing notes, but when he needs to put the ball on the floor in a huff, he will dribble in rapid, staccato 16th beats until he either pulls up for a jumper or float his way to the rim.
Irving is a bonafide star in the league and the scary part is that he is only 20-years-old. The ceiling for his game hangs as high as Bach’s Kyrie stretches for the heavens.
“But still,” you say, “the Cavaliers are a 13-win team in a Conference dressed in mediocrity-polka-dots.”
When Bach was a youth, he was considered quite the musician. People acknowledged his playing ability, but never saw him as a composer, a creator of work. Sure Irving can work on his defense, and he’ll learn to share the rock more, but Irving is the type of talent we need to pay attention to now.
Let us learn from our lessons of Johann Sebastian Bach. Don’t sleep on this kid. He was playing before, but now we’re seeing him write symphonies. Now we are watching him create work that they’ll be talking about 264 years from now, and until then, we will watch and listen as opposing teams and cities beg for mercy, Kyrie, from the man providing his city with some.
Click the link to the Youtuber Double below to see and hear Kyrie.