Kyrie Irving explains the challenges of playing with LeBron James
Kyrie Irving can attest to the challenges that involve playing with a player of LeBron James’ caliber, having called it quits after three seasons with him in Cleveland when he was ultimately traded to the Boston Celtics:
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Kyrie Irving told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin when asked about playing alongside LeBron James. “You now become part of a championship-caliber team based on a unique talent. LeBron is so smart, so talented, such a strong leader. And you’re trying to implement who you are, and grow as a player and learn every single day. And it can be difficult because it demands a lot of you.
“Certain times young players — and even older ones — find it a big transition, because you’re playing a certain way, and growing as a player, and you have a vision of what your career will look like. And then this player of such great stature arrives, and you’re still trying to be great, and he’s already great. And you find yourself asking, ‘OK, what are the steps to get there?’ So now do you learn by example from watching him? Do you learn by the way he treats his body? By the way he treats his business off the court? By his philanthropic path? So you just watch and you observe.”
Before James arrived in a glorious return to his hometown Cavaliers, Irving had just signed an extension to his rookie contract and was promised the keys to this team, only for the front office to scrap those plans upon James touching down in The Land.
The pressure of pivoting between growing as his own player and being that right fit playing alongside a megastar of James’ caliber is exactly the type of pressure Irving grew tired of:
“You also have to be aware of the expectations from the outside and how that can infiltrate your thinking,” Irving said. “Somehow it ends up where everybody wants to play the blame game when things don’t go right. So it’s just a lot to get used to. It comes with a lot of pressures. I believe the very, very special ones, the unique ones, gladly take on that challenge, and they relish it. You can’t be afraid to challenge another great person. That’s how greatness is achieved.”
Somehow, even after spending three seasons chasing championships with LeBron, Kyrie Irving chose to carve his own path and find it with the Celtics, who fell just a game shy of cracking the NBA Finals without him in the lineup.
Young players on the Los Angeles Lakers are facing that very struggle, hoping to develop their game while still being a piece to a puzzle that has only proven to result in long playoff stints and hardware.