In 2014, the Cavaliers immediately became a title contender when LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving joined forces in Cleveland. The “Big Three” carried the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals and gave the franchise its first NBA championship title. However, things started to fall apart when they failed to defend their title in the 2016-2017 NBA season. Irving surprisingly demanded a trade from the Cavaliers and ended up joining their Eastern Conference rivals, Boston Celtics.
Though the Cavaliers made their fourth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals with the help of Kevin Love and LeBron James, they were easily swept by the Golden State Warriors. Most people believed that the Cavaliers could have given the Warriors a tough competition if Irving was still on the team. According to Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, James should be partially blamed for Irving’s departure
“Let’s be honest: LeBron didn’t do anything, until they were going to trade him, to try to keep him here. He didn’t try to talk to him,” Vardon told 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland, (h/t NBC Sports). “He didn’t try to mend the fences. It wasn’t until they said, ‘LeBron, we’re giving him to Boston’ is when he said, ‘No, no don’t do that.’ When it came out, there was a month – a whole month – before anybody had any idea that the trade was going to be to Boston. LeBron didn’t do anything. There was no love lost between them.”
As of now, both Kyrie Irving and LeBron James are no longer members of the Cavaliers. After undergoing a season-ending surgery, Irving is expected to return to the Celtics next season. Meanwhile, James recently decided to test the competition in the deep Western Conference after signing a four-year, $153 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Being on the opposite sides, James and Irving have the chance to meet each other in the NBA Finals and continue the league’s most historic rivalry between the Lakers and the Celtics. Boston is emerging as the top favorite team to fully dominate the Eastern Conference next season, especially if Irving and Gordon Hayward return 100 percent healthy.
Meanwhile, LeBron and the Lakers will be taking a difficult path on their road to the NBA Finals. The reigning NBA champions, Golden State Warriors, just got stronger after acquiring All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins. Unlike with the Cavaliers and the Miami Heat where he played with other superstars, James will be starting a new journey on a team mostly consisting of role players and young talents.