It all fell into place for Kyrie Irving. In the final minute of Game 7 of the NBA Finals, he broke a scoreless tie with a fadeaway 3-pointer over two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry. The Cavs proceeded to win the game and the series, and Irving etched his name in NBA glory forever.
The dream continued into Irving's celebration.
"I actually FaceTimed Kobe after the game as soon as I got in the locker room," Irving says. "Other than seeing my dad and my sister right after we won, FaceTiming him was just a great thing, knowing how he has won five and I just won my first. Then realizing how hard it is just to win one, my respect for him is already high, but it went to another level knowing that he's got five of them. I'm trying to get a second one."
Irving credits Phil Handy, who was also on the FaceTime, for sparking his relationship with Bryant. Handy serves as Cavs Director of Player Development/Assistant Coach, a position he has held since 2013, previously serving as Lakers Director of Player Development.
"[Bryant] was telling me congrats," Irving says of the FaceTime. "I had been speaking to him throughout the entire playoffs and during the season. During the Finals, we didn't really talk as much, because for me, I wanted to experience it full on, and if I needed his help, I would reach out to him. He would send me some texts here and there, but mainly he kind of let me be, and let me grow into my own space."
According to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, Bryant spent part of his retirement tour dishing out advice to fellow competitors. To "young players like Irving," Bryant advised he "create conflict on their team so nobody ever gets comfortable."
Irving, 24, who just finished his fifth season, milked all he could out of overlapping careers with the Black Mamba.
"I would say the last two years has been great just from a mental aspect, as well as being a pupil and a student of the game, and also of his," Irving says of playing in Bryant's era. "I'm really just watching and studying as much as possible to make sure I am getting the full potential out of myself and my teammates, and ultimately, winning basketball games and becoming the best player I can be."
Irving has been in close quarters with another legend the past two seasons: LeBron James. Although Irving hit the de facto NBA Finals-winning shot, James had "The Block" and was the MVP of the series. During James' Heat sabbatical, Irving was the face of the Cavaliers. Upon James' return, he took Cleveland's crown back, but James also put on a teacher's hat for Irving.
"I think the biggest thing is how to be a professional," Irving says on what he has learned from James. "There were times during my young career where I wanted to be the leader, but I didn't really know how. I understood that I had a lot of talent and did some great things out on the floor, and I brought a lot to the team, but there are a lot of intangibles that go unnoticed that can separate a good from a great team, or even a bad team from a good team.
"I was stuck in that place of being a young guy and finding out how to be selfless."
Irving continued: "There are so many intangibles, so many X's and O's that go on and off the floor that make a beautiful art piece, and that beautiful art piece ends with a championship. I now understand that, going through it, coming into a season hurt, getting hurt in the Finals, there are so many things that have happened that have really shaped me as a man over the last year, so I'm just really thankful that I've had him to lean on for guidance."
Irving, James and the Cavaliers have been parading their trophy, championship smiles and shirtless bodies around the country for the past month. However, the family that Cleveland created has already seen rifts. Two notable contributors to the title run, Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova, have already signed contracts with the Lakers and Bucks, respectively.
"I think the few words you hear always in this league are, 'It's a business,'" Irving says. "Sometimes in business, things have to be done whether you like them or not, so emotionally, I understand that I'm bonded with those guys forever, no matter what. We're championship winners. We're a championship team. That's engraved in history, and we'll be talked about years and years down the road.
"Obviously, you'd love to keep the same team, keep the same core that you have, but sometimes, it just doesn't work out that way. All you can do is hope that those guys do what's best for their families and their careers, and wish them the best. There are no hard feelings or ill will towards it. It's just part of the business and sometimes it has to be done."
Irving says he has not talked to either player since they signed their new deals. While players such as James have sent tweets, Irving says he would rather avoid social media or even text contact, wishing to offer congratulations in person. Irving will meet up with at least Dellavedova at the Olympics next month.
Two other free agents in the news are Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade. Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors after nine season in Oklahoma City/Seattle. "Heat Lifer" Dwyane Wade left Miami for Chicago after 13 years in South Beach.
"It's just part of business, and I understand that," Irving says. "You're making the best move for your family and your career. Those guys are making decisions based on themselves as individuals, and I just respect it and focus on what I can control over here."
A more pressing concern for Irving will be how he handles the Zika virus. While certain athletes have backed out of the Olympics, notably in golf, for fear of contracting the virus in Rio, Irving and the U.S. Basketball Team are holding firm on their trip.
"It's definitely a concern," he says. "I'm not necessarily fearful of it. I knew what I was signing up for."
Irving spoke to ThePostGame on behalf of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 after attending a livestream gameplay event Tuesday. Irving says "he knows" he is the best Call of Duty player on the Cavaliers, and he will be taking an Xbox One to Rio for the Olympics.
Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.