When LeBron James returned in 2014, the Cleveland Cavaliers turned from a rebuilding team to legitimate title contender in the Eastern Conference. The “Big Three” of James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving carried the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in their first year of playing together and won the team’s first NBA championship title the following season. However, the Cavaliers “Big Three” era didn’t last long after Kyrie Irving demanded a trade in the summer of 2017.
During those times, rumors and speculations circulated that Kyrie Irving no longer wanted to team up with LeBron James. Irving and James have denied that there’s bad blood existing between the two of them. As of now, both superstars are no longer with the Cavaliers. Irving is playing for the Boston Celtics, while James recently signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.
When asked about Irving’s desire to move out of his shadow, James said that it’s something that he couldn’t control.
“That’s not my problem. If that’s the case, that’s definitely not my problem,” James told The Athletic‘s Jason Lloyd (h/t The Score). “I never felt like I didn’t want to play with him. The only thing I tried to do is give him whatever I could and more.”
"The guy still had two years left on his contract. They didn’t have to give him up." https://t.co/PaMptLyLIC
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) November 23, 2018
LeBron James believes that Kyrie Irving was “already gone” in Cleveland from the time he requested a trade. However, James thinks that the Cavaliers should have tried to fix the issue instead of immediately making him available in trade discussions with other NBA teams.
“I think by the time it got to me he wanted to be traded, I think he was already gone,” James said. “He was already gone and it was up to the organization to do their job and try to keep him as well. The guy still had two years left on his contract. They didn’t have to give him up. It could’ve been repaired then.”
Kyrie Irving’s departure greatly affected the Cavaliers’ chances of winning their second NBA championship title. James described the Irving trade as the beginning of the end. Though they received quality players, Isaiah Thomas, and Jae Crowder, in exchange for the All-Star point guard, none of them proved to be a good fit on LeBron’s squad. James and Kevin Love led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals for their fourth straight year only to be swept by the reigning NBA champions, Golden State Warriors.