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“LeBron can’t cast a shadow, he [Irving] has a lot of maturing to do as we all have. You gotta think these 23, 24, 25, 26-year-old guys casting a big spot so, to be honest I looked at the content and the intentions behind your heart. Who you are versus trying to stunt on somebody because you’re 25 years old and you don’t know any better. But I think the way those two butted heads kind of left a bad imprint on Kyrie. It was bad business. It was some things that LeBron did. You know, Kyrie learned some poor leadership from LeBron and some of the stuff he did and I think Kyrie tried to come into his own in a different way.”
There were many rumors about the James-Irving relationship during their four seasons as teammates from 2014-18.
Phil Handy, who was an assistant coach on the Cavs from 2013-18, told the Battle for LA podcast (h/t Tomer Azarly of Clutch Points) earlier this month that Irving was “bothered” by the fact that people “looked at him as an elite player that just really cared about numbers” before he teamed up with James.
When Irving requested a trade from Cleveland in July 2017, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported the six-time All-Star wanted “to play in a situation where he can be more of a focal point and that he no longer wants to play alongside LeBron James.”
The Cavs honored Irving’s request by trading him to the Boston Celtics in August. He spent two seasons with the Celtics, which seemed to have made an impact on his dynamic with James.
Irving told reporters in January 2019 that he called James to “apologize for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips.”
That came during Irving’s tumultuous final season with the Celtics that eventually led to him leaving as a free agent last summer to sign with the Brooklyn Nets.