Kyrie Irving Says He, LeBron James Could've Won More Titles If He Was More Mature

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 16, 2022

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 15:  Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shake hands against the Indiana Pacers in Round One of the Eastern Conference Playoffs during the 2017 NBA Playoffs on April 15, 2017 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE  (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving once again lamented how his partnership with LeBron James ended while they were members of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving said on I Am Athlete he wasn't in the right frame of mind to build a truly successful relationship with James and others on the team:

"I definitely feel like if I was in the same maturity level I am now and understanding who I am and I look back on that time then, we definitely would have won more championships together because there would've been a better man-to-man understanding about what I'm going through. I didn't know how to share my emotions, I didn't know how to do that. So, instead of sharing, I isolated myself. And I just started pouring myself more into the game of basketball and I had one of my better seasons, but I wasn't connecting with everybody as much during our championship year.
"And so in 2017, it was a different year for us. So when we went against Golden State, we went against a great team. When you're not a great team, and you're not clicking on all cylinders and together, you're easily defeatable. You're defeated before you even get to the arena. We were in those games against Golden State, but we definitely could've given them a run for their money, regardless if they had [Kevin Durant]."

This isn't the first time Irving has reflected on his Cavs tenure and wondered what could've been. He said in January 2019, more than a year after his trade to the Boston Celtics, that he had reached out to James and "apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips."

James also waded back into the situation on Road Trippin' in December 2020. The four-time MVP explained how he "only wanted to see [Irving] be an MVP of our league" and "only cared about his success."

Richard Jefferson @Rjeff24

Damn... <a href="https://twitter.com/KingJames?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@kingjames</a> addresses Kyrie’s statements made during the NBA Finals. SUBSCRIBE to get it when it drops ⁦<a href="https://twitter.com/RoadTrippinPod?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RoadTrippinPod</a> ⁦<a href="https://twitter.com/channingfrye?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@channingfrye</a>⁩ ⁦<a href="https://twitter.com/RealAClifton?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RealAClifton</a>⁩ ✊🏾✊🏾. <a href="https://t.co/3t6kFNCOC4">https://t.co/3t6kFNCOC4</a> <a href="https://t.co/KcHfjqkf91">pic.twitter.com/KcHfjqkf91</a>

To some degree, those comments might have underlined why things didn't work out between James and Irving in Cleveland.

LeBron was almost using a paternal tone to speak about his former teammate, and he didn't seem to consider whether a mentor/mentee dynamic was what Irving was seeking in the first place.

Irving bristled in May 2015 at a question about what "parental role" James was playing for a young Cavs roster that hadn't tasted much collective success.

As Irving was on his way out in July 2017, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith added more perspective when he cited a source who said the seven-time All-Star guard was "not about to let LeBron 'SON' him … treating him like he's the child and LeBron's the father or big brother he’s supposed to look up to."

Somewhat unfairly, Irving's recent comments are likely to fuel the perception he was solely at fault for his and James' relationship breaking down. In reality, each party likely shared some level of blame. 

In general, the three years James and Irving spent together in Cleveland shouldn't be viewed from a standpoint of what they didn't achieve. They won a championship in 2016 and claimed three straight conference titles. It was a great run while it lasted.