Kyrie Irving and LeBron James had an infamously bad breakup this summer. The Cavs points guard requested a trade, and got one in August to the Boston Celtics. A lot of dominoes went down for Irving to get to that point.
The move was shocking, as Irving had won a championship with the team two years earlier, and had been to three consecutive NBA Finals. That’s about as good as it gets from a basketball standpoint.
The problem seemed to loom from a mental standpoint though, especially because LeBron James owned the spotlight. Little did anyone know at the time that may have been Irving’s biggest issue.
On Sunday, James and Irving will take the floor again as teammates for the first time since the trade. James himself selected Irving in the first-ever All-Star Game draft, though this is bound to be a little awkward.
So how did we get to this point?
Irving thought he was going to be traded before he requested it
In a story by ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, Irving said, “[the Cavs] didn’t want me there.”
That was before he ever requested a trade.
What did LeBron say about that?
“That makes absolutely no sense,” James said, according to MacMullan.
So if that wasn’t true, then why else would Irving want to leave?
Kyrie Irving wanted to create his own legend and not live under James’ shadow
As Irving put it in his press conference with the Celtics, “Me leaving [Cleveland] wasn’t about basketball.” And to some extent that was true — there was no pure basketball reason for Irving to leave. He was coming off the best season of his career statistically.
His move had a lot more to do with breaking out from behind LeBron’s shadow. To not be known as the Scottie Pippen to LeBron’s Michael Jordan.
“It was my time to do what was best for me in terms of my intentions and that’s going after something bigger than myself and obviously being in an environment that’s conducive for my potential,” Irving said according to Cleveland.com.
That’s when he started throwing subtle jabs at James.
”I think that statement is self explanatory,” Irving said, “because it’s pretty direct in terms of what my intent is, and that’s to be happy and be with a group of individuals that I can grow with.”
Did he ever explain that to LeBron?
Umm... no. That’s why this all became so awkward.
In September, Irving had a bizarre appearance on First Take in which he revealed that he did not talk to James, nor did he feel any remorse for it.
Smith: “Did you speak to LeBron James or talk to LeBron before you and your representatives met with ownership to let them know that you wanted out?”
Smith: “Why not?”
Irving: “Why would I have to?”
Smith: “If you don’t speak to somebody about it, they might take it personally.”
Smith: “Do you care about that at all?”
“I want to be extremely, extremely happy, like, in perfecting my craft. And that was the only the intent that I had in all of this.”
He was essentially bringing to light his issues with James.
Irving threw another low-blow at the team’s lack of on-court chemistry
Jalen Rose asks Kyrie Irving what's the biggest difference between Cleveland and Boston. His answer: "ball movement."— Bill Sy (@deliberatepix) October 12, 2017
He subtly dissed the city of Cleveland itself
“It’s exciting to be on the East Coast, I will tell you that,” Irving said in an interview with ESPN’s Marc Spears. “It’s fast-paced. There are a lot of different cultures. You get it all. I was talking to my best friend the other day. It is really a major city coming from Cleveland where it is the Midwest. The culture is different. Then you move to East Coast, to Boston, it’s a real, live ongoing, thriving city, consistently ongoing. It doesn’t matter what hour throughout the night.
“You go in Cleveland and it would be at night and there were things going on. You could see it was a vast difference of what Cleveland is and what Boston is. But Boston is one of those cities … I’m driving in and I’m like, ‘OK, I’m really in a real, live sports city and a great city.’”
Have Irving and James been around each other since?
Yep. After Irving missed a potential game-tying buzzer-beater, he and James shared a hug. They were at least friendly to each other in front of the camera.
So what should we expect on All-Star Sunday?
Much of the same. James isn’t one to keep beefs, and his drafting Irving to his team speaks volumes.
Still, don’t be surprised to see some passive-aggressive behavior from either one in the game.