Celtics star Kyrie Irving slammed his younger teammates for not understanding how to win a championship.
Which ironically made Irving sound a lot like LeBron James talking about Irving early in their time together with the Cavaliers.
Irving sometimes disliked LeBron’s leadership back then. Similarly, Irving’s comments didn’t go over well in Boston, especially with Jaylen Brown.
But apparently Irving realized how he fit both sides of the situation and addressed it, including with LeBron himself.
Jay King of The Athletic:
Irving, via NBC Sports Boston:
I’ll tell you one thing, and obviously this is something that it was a big deal for me because I had to call Bron and tell him, “I apologize for being that young player that wanted to everything at his fingertips, and I wanted everything to be at my threshold. I wanted to be the guy that led us to championships. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that.”
And the responsibility of being the best player in the world and leading a team is something that’s not meant for many people. And Bron was one of those guys that came to Cleveland and tried to really show us what it’s like to win a championship. And it was hard for him. And sometimes getting the most out of the group, it’s not the easiest thing in the world.
And like I said, only few are meant for it or chosen for it. And I felt like the best person to call was him, because he’s been in this situation.
He’s been there with me, where I’ve been the young guy of being the 22-year-old kid and wanting everything. Wanting everything right now. Coming off an All-Star year starting then this heck of a presence comes back, and now I got to adjust my game to this guy. And you take it personal, but at the end of the day, he just wants what’s best. He has a legacy he wants to leave, and he has a window he wants to capture.
So, I think what that brought me back to was, alright, how do I get the best out of this group, of the success they had last year, and then helping them realize what it takes to win a championship.
It takes a real man to go back and call somebody and be like, “Hey, man, I was young. I made some mistakes. I wasn’t really seeing the big picture like you were. I didn’t have the end of the season in mind. I just wanted to get my stats and make All-Star games. In his career, it means like this much [holds fingers close together] at that point.
So, it was just good. It gave me peace of mind, too, to go about what I’ve got to go do.
Kudos to Irving for his self-realization. Few people recognize their hypocrisy.
And kudos to Irving for immediately making amends – both toward his younger teammates and LeBron.
Learning how to win at the highest levels is extremely hard. Irving did it.
Teaching someone else how to win at the highest levels might be even more difficult. Irving isn’t there yet.
To his credit, Irving took a lot of grief while playing with LeBron and worked through it. LeBron’s leadership style isn’t for everyone. LeBron gets away with insensitive criticism of his own teammates and coaches, because he’s such a great player, and it’s generally believed he knows best, anyway.
As excellent as he is, Irving doesn’t have that same cachet as a leader. He can’t just follow the LeBron model.
Irving also might not have young teammates as willing to persevere through the negatives of following a LeBron-like leader and internalize the lessons as Irving was.
That said, even Irving tired of it, as he requested a trade from Cleveland.
I wonder whether Irving regrets that now. If he understood LeBron’s burden with young teammates sooner, would Irving have stayed with the Cavs?
Maybe Irving just wanted the leadership role himself, regardless. He has it now in Boston.
Now, he must find a leadership style that works after identifying one that doesn’t.