Leadership is a skill. But some are born with the inclination to become a leader, while others are prone to follow. Talent is gifted to you, but it takes skill to push talent to places and spaces you’ve never been. For LeBron James, he has acquired both the skill as a basketball player and leadership and has translated that to four MVP’s and three NBA titles. Kyrie Irving, on the other hand, has exceptional skill as a basketball player but admittedly is learning the ins and outs of leadership.
Irving famously asked out of his partnership with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2017, seeking out greener pastures and the right to operate a team of his own. Eventually, Irving was traded to the Boston Celtics and helped the Celtics emerge as NBA title contenders for the long haul. But Irving is realizing that being the best player and the de facto leader isn’t an easy job. With the Celtics abundance of talent fully healthy, Irving is tasked with juggling the locker room and keeping chemistry intact.
But if Irving decides that his job is too much to bear, he could always ask for a trade or leave via free agency in 2020. Commenting on Irving’s recent apology to James, Chris Broussard stated that Irving could always start anew with James in Los Angeles.
“Kyrie has to ask himself: Do I want the responsibility of being the team leader? If he does, he’ll either stay in Boston, go to New York or Brooklyn. If he decides I just want to ball and win titles, he could look at joining LeBron with the Lakers.”
In theory, Broussard nails one key thing: preference. If just playing ball is what Irving is seeking, then the Lakers would be the best bet. There is certainly nothing wrong with this rationale. Some teachers would rather teach than become an administrator. Position coaches or coordinators in football would rather teach the aspects of the game, than become overseer.
In Irving’s case, while initially he wanted the opportunity to lead his own team, it appears he took for granted his role in Cleveland. At Cleveland, he didn’t have to hold team meetings or be the guy players looked to. He could just play ball, produce then go home. With the Celtics, he’s the guy his team looks to for guidance and leadership. And while the Celtics are still a playoff team, they are far removed from the NBA title favorite bestowed upon them in the preseason.
Thus, the option to become a Laker could at least appear enticing to Irving. There, he can just worry about scoring while James resumes the role of team leader. Additionally, James has another star player he can defer to in a loaded Western Conference. Clarity on any level with team sports is key. Irving would be able to provide that, youth and experience which would greatly assist the Lakers.
But only time will tell if leadership is cut out for Irving. It’s not meant for everyone who attempts the position, as he alluded to via his apology to James. Perhaps, Irving best suits the role of Scottie Pippen when he was a Chicago Bull. Pippen’s job was to score, defend and help the team win while Jordan was tasked as the team leader.
It isn’t to say that he couldn’t lead, it just wasn’t his preference to do so. Currently, the Celtics are finding their footing, but aren’t where they hoped to be as the All-Star break approaches. Depending on how the season plays out, it shouldn’t shock anyone that Irving calling James to apologize, was not a coincidence.