Much has been made about the rather colorful relationship of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and Brooklyn Nets All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. It now feels like ages ago when these two once shared the same court as teammates with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and it’s as though so many things have happened since then.
Today we take a quick stroll down memory lane as we relive the ups and downs of what can only be characterized as a rocky relationship between LeBron James and Irving.
The Good Years
Irving arrived in Cleveland in 2011 as a highly-touted first overall pick. It wasn’t until three years later until James made his triumphant return to the city and the team he infamously walked away from some four years earlier.
On the basketball court, it seemed like a match made in heaven. Along with Kevin Love, this trio led the Cavs to a highly-celebrated title in 2016, memorably coming from 3-1 behind in the Finals against a heavily-favored Golden State Warriors who just set a regular season record with 73 wins and just nine losses.
Together, LeBron and Kyrie (and Love) went to the Finals for three straight seasons and were arguably considered as the second-best team in the league during that span behind the dynasty-seeking Dubs.
Things were not as perfect as it appeared, however. As the years progressed, whispers became louder and louder about Irving no longer wanting to play in James’ shadow. Simply put, Irving wanted to be his own man. As a result, he forced a trade away from Cleveland in 2017. The 6-foot-2 point guard did not go about it in the best of ways as well, publicly demanding for a trade in a manner that was not very professional, to say the least.
Cleveland was pretty much left with no other choice but to deal Irving away, sending him to the Boston Celtics in the summer of 2017 in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and a couple of future draft picks.
At that point in time, it was clear that Irving was fed up with playing second fiddle to LeBron. It looked as though their relationship had gotten to such an unsalvageable point that Kyrie could not stand one more minute as the Robin to James’ Batman.
One year later, James moved on from Cleveland as well — for a second time — as he signed a multi-year deal with the Lakers as a free agent.
It’s as if LeBron and Irving’s relationship went full circle in February 2019 — nearly three years since their infamous falling out.
According to Irving himself, he called up LeBron to apologize for his immaturity during their days in Cleveland. At this point, Irving was already the leader of the Celtics — a role he did not exactly excel in during his brief stint with the team.
“I apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips, and I wanted everything at my threshold,” Irving told the Boston Herald in 2019. I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that, and the responsibility of being the best in the world and leading your team is something that is not meant for many people.
Irving was now in LeBron James’ shoes, having to deal with younger guys on his team that he did not exactly align with in terms of maturity and perhaps, even on a fundamental level. He was literally placed on the other end of the spectrum, and Irving quickly realized how difficult it was to be a team’s talisman — both on and off the court.
This singular phone call was able to patch things up between the two. James himself revealed that they were able to move on from their past differences.
“Yeah, we’re in a good place right now,” James told The Athletic. “Me and Kyrie are in a good place right now. I love the man that he’s becoming, I love the challenges he’s accepted and I always wish the best for him.”
Despite receiving some much-needed advice from his former teammate, Irving’s time with Boston did not really work out. He left the team in 2019 as a free agent, opting to sign with the Nets together with good pal Kevin Durant.
At this point, it can be said that the relationship between LeBron and Irving is as good as it can be — all things considered. This perhaps is a perfect case of two stars colliding at an inopportune time. Then again, a championship did come out of this pairing, so it’s obviously not all that bad.