5 Lessons Kyrie Irving Must Learn from LeBron About Playing in Cleveland
When LeBron James, Cleveland's supposed prodigal son, bolted for Miami in the summer of 2010, his loyalty to the city of Cleveland was brought into question. Now, Cleveland has a new basketball savant who goes by the name of Kyrie Irving.
Upon departure, James became the most hated sports figure in one of America's most tortured sports towns, leaving a massive basketball shaped void in the hearts of Cavalier fans.
When Irving was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA draft, it was unclear just how big of an impact he could have on a withering franchise, but his play since being drafted has been simply phenomenal.
With Irving shining in Cleveland's spotlight, here are five lessons he must learn from James' time as the Cavaliers' franchise centerpiece.
Keep Ego in Check
LeBron James was not exactly the most modest player during his time in Cleveland. As James' statistical output ballooned, so did his ego, especially on a team with no other superstars around him.
While Kyrie Irving is in an eerily similar situation to James early in his career, he must learn to keep his ego in check. So far, so good for Irving, who is the NBA's reigning Rookie of the Year.
As the Cavaliers continue to improve, the amount of attention they receive from national media will increase significantly, and with that will come more praise for Irving.
So long as he doesn't—like the greats before him—get too big for the Cavaliers, he will be beloved by the city and the fans.
Respect the Fanbase
Remember the images of the angry Cavaliers fans burning LeBron James apparel after he announced his decision to take his talents to South Beach?
Avoiding a catastrophe like that will be quite obvious to Kyrie Irving, but it bears repeating.
While Irving isn't due for a qualifying offer until the 2015-16 season, some poor results for the Cavs over the next few seasons could result in a restless star point guard.
Irving seems committed to putting Cleveland back on a winning track, so it's unlikely that he bolts for another franchise in a few years. But if he does contemplate doing so, he must do so in a respectful and thoughtful manner.
Take the Reins as a Leader
On such a young Cleveland Cavaliers squad, Byron Scott needs his best players to be vocal leaders.
Although he's just 20 years old, Kyrie Irving has already taken over a significant leadership role for the Cavaliers, one that many teams' star players are required to grow into over the course of several years.
Despite not being of legal drinking age, Irving's late-game heroics and overall performance show that he is growing up at an accelerated rate, and if he doesn't already, will soon have the strongest voice in the locker room.
Irving's emergence as a leader will coincide with the Cavaliers' future success, which doesn't appear to be all that far off.
Shoulder the Scoring Load
LeBron James could be knocked for a number of things during his tenure in Cleveland, but one thing that can't be denied is how dominant a scoring presence he was in his seven years with the Cavs.
Like James, Kyrie Irving appears to be on a similar career trajectory in Cleveland, having scored more than 18 points per game in his rookie season (LeBron averaged 20.9) and averaging more than 22.5 per contest in 10 games so far this season.
James' scoring total increased to 27.2 and 31.4 points per game in his second and third years, respectively, and while Irving may never top 30 per night, he could certainly approach 25 points per game at some point in his career.
Build on Success
After LeBron James was drafted No. 1 overall in 2003, it was unclear how long it would take for him and the Cavaliers to achieve postseason success.
After failed attempts to challenge for Eastern Conference superiority in 2004 and 2005, the Cavs broke through during the 2006-07 season, capturing a conference title and meeting the San Antonio Spurs in the 2007 NBA Finals.
Although they would get swept by the Spurs, James brought the Cavaliers from the cellar of the East to national relevancy in just a few short years.
Now, with Kyrie Irving leading the way there appears to be hope once again for Cleveland. If the Cavaliers can surround Irving with some talented role players, the team will be well on its way to postseason success once again.