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NBA playoffs 2024 - In a postseason dominated by rising stars in their 20s, Kyrie Irving is still standing - ESPN

AS THE SECONDS ticked away inside Dallas' American Airlines Center, Kyrie Irving and James Harden approached each other and exchanged the customized handshake they created during their brief stint together as Brooklyn Nets teammates before hugging.

Irving had just put the finishing touches on the Dallas Mavericks' first-round series, scoring 28 of his 30 points in the second half of the Game 6 closeout victory over Harden's LA Clippers. As the Mavs moved on, a few of Irving's longtime peers started their summer early, as a Clippers team built around 30-something-year-old stars Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Harden was eliminated.

And with that, the older generation of NBA superstars was gone, bounced from the postseason before the second round started — with one exception.

Irving, a major reason the Mavericks are two wins from the Western Conference finals, remains standing. In fact, there are a dozen active players with at least seven All-Star selections. Irving is the only one whose team advanced out of the first round.

That realization hit Irving, 32, as he went through his postgame routine after closing out the Clippers. The Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James and the Phoenix Suns' Kevin Durant, Irving's co-stars at previous stops, had already been sent home. The Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry, Irving's three-time NBA Finals foe, didn't make it out of the play-in tournament.

«I've been competing with those guys for so long and seeing them every year,» Irving told ESPN. «It's been pretty much our generation running the Finals, the Eastern Conference finals, Western Conference finals. [The shift has] just been quick. I don't want to say I know that those guys are looking at the light in the tunnel. I can't speak for