Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving and Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James will forever be linked. Earlier in their careers, the two All-Stars headlined the Cleveland Cavaliers as one of the most explosive duos in NBA history.
Irving and LeBron were a part of the historic Cavaliers team that came back from a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 NBA Finals to beat the 73-9 Golden State Warriors, who were the defending NBA champions at the time. Although LeBron was named the Most Valuable Player of the Finals, Irving hit the biggest shot of the series. He netted a go-ahead three over reigning two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, Stephen Curry, to seal the historic win for Cleveland and the only title of his career.
Curry called Irving and LeBron’s performance in that NBA Finals the ‘craziest’ thing he’s ever seen.
“What I’ll say about that 3-1 situation is I’ve never seen two guys play at that level for three straight games! It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, like Bron [James] and Kyrie [Irving] were just on. We played well, they just played better,” Curry said to JJ Redick on the November 22 episode of “Old Man and the Three”.
“It was hard to watch and be in that vibe where you couldn’t do anything about it. You can just tip your hat to somebody who outplayed you, and that’s what they did for three straight games.”
The latest Nets news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Nets newsletter here!
Kyrie Clears Air With Lebron James
After beating the Warriors in 7 games in 2016, that summer, the Warriors added superstar free agent Kevin Durant to their roster. When the Cavs and Warriors met again in the Finals in 2017, it was a no contest as the Dubs beat them in 5 games. That series was the prerequisite to Irving abruptly requesting a trade from the Cavaliers that summer.
Multiple reports suggested the reason for his trade request was he no longer wanted to play in LeBron’s shadow. To pour even more salt in the wound, in 2020, Irving did an interview, praising Durant for his ability to hit big shots in clutch moments. But LeBron took exception to Kyrie’s praise for Durant, as it was perceived by many as a shot at the Lakers star.
During a May 4 interview on Boardroom’s “The ETCs” podcast, Kyrie attempted to shed light on the drama between him and LeBron. Irving reiterated that his comments were not a shot at LeBron, emphasizing that he “respected the hell” out of his former Cavaliers teammate.
Shout out to LeBron, you know what I mean. He felt like I was slighting him, and I would never slight him in a way that would probably make him go and have to respond to things like that, you know what I mean? I respected the hell out of him,” Irving said to Eddie Gonzalez on “The ETCs”.
“We’ve been through our battles as teammates, as competitors together. So, like that’s all part of it, bro.”
Nets Prefer to Trade Kyrie, Says Insider
It appears that Irving has worn out his welcome with his third straight team after he and the Nets did not agree on the terms of a max contract extension this summer. To make things even worse, Irving just returned from an eight-game suspension for sharing the link to an anti-Semitic film.
Kyrie’s exit from the Nets no longer seems to be a matter of if, but rather, a matter of when. With his contract just months away from expiring, the Nets would rather get something in return for Kyrie than lose him for nothing, according to Sam Amico of Hoops Wire.
“The Nets would like to move Irving, but his trade value isn’t exactly at an all-time high right now. Quite the opposite,” Amico writes.
It will be interesting to see what is next for Irving and the Nets beyond this season.