Irving, who is now officially a member of the Celtics after the teams completed a blockbuster deal that had stalled, posted a lengthy thank-you note and video on his Instagram account Thursday. While somewhat vague about his intentions, the All-Star guard explained some the reasons that led to him requesting the Cavaliers trade him following six seasons – and three straight trips to the NBA Finals.
"My special thank you to Cleveland" *Link in Bio. My love extends way beyond the court I have for Cleveland and it will always be a place thats special because of the great people and experiences. The Ups and downs, we stand and fight no matter what the circumstances are, and that's what being in Cleveland embodies, it is all Love and a whole lotta pride. To the incredible individuals I've met who support the Cleveland organization and help allow us as Players to feel a special bond to the State/City and shared countless moments with, keep being YOU and know that my appreciation is eternal. Thank you From my whole being for being there as I was a 19 year old kid coming into the league, to now where I start another step in the journey as a 25 year old Evolving man. It will Always be Love and respect Cleveland. "The journey is always the Reward" #KyrieWick
In a meeting last month with Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert, Irving said he wanted out.
“You understand the magnitude of decisions that you make in your life can affect a lot of people all at once,” Irving said in the more than 4-minute video. “And when you get to that point and you understand that the best intentions for you and ultimately to be in your truth, and find out what you really want to do in your life and how you want to accomplish it – that moment comes and you take full advantage of it.
“And there are no other ulterior reasons other than being happy and to be somewhere you feel like it’s an environment that’s conducive for you maximizing your potential.”
Irving apparently felt it was time to get out from under the colossal shadow cast by James. The pair won an NBA title together – the first for any Cleveland team since 1964 – in 2016, but Irving did not single out James in his video or the accompanying note.
Irving’s comments were his first since the trade, which was initially announced on Aug. 22. He was sent to the Celtics for All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and the 2018 first-round pick Boston acquired from Brooklyn.
After the Cavaliers had concerns about Thomas’ hip injury, they asked for more and obtained a 2020 second-round pick from the Celtics, completing the deal.
In his video, Irving thanked Gilbert and Cleveland’s ownership group for taking “a chance on a 19-year-old kid that was coming off a stubbed right toe, of being in a very, very immature place at the time.”
The Cavaliers selected Irving with the No. 1 overall pick in 2011 after he played in just 11 games at Duke because of injury.
He was a four-time All-Star with Cleveland and made the biggest basket in franchise history, a 3-pointer in the closing moments of Game 7 in the 2016 Finals that propelled the Cavs to the title.
While Irving and James had their differences, the two seemingly managed to work through them. After the Cavs were beaten by Golden State in this year’s Finals, Irving spoke at length about what it meant to play with James and how much he had learned.
But as he closed his video, Irving didn’t acknowledge their relationship.
“And to my teammates: crazy stories, crazy experiences and just unbelievable human beings, man,” Irving said. “You all know how this brotherhood goes, man. All love.”