Nets Kyrie Irving Sends Strong Message on LeBron James, Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant

Getty LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant at the 2018 All-Star Game.

Being in the NBA in itself comes with a lot of pressure. But the pressure of being the number one overall pick in the NBA Draft is an entirely different kind of pressure because you are expected to change the fortunes of a franchise. This was the dilemma that Brooklyn Nets star, Kyrie Irving, faced when he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011.

But Irving faced even steeper pressure, as he was expected to usher in a new era in Cleveland after the unexpected departure of LeBron James the previous summer. But the Nets star admits that some of the pressure put on his shoulders was self-inflicted.

“I had my first draft workout here, my only draft workout. The amount of pressure I was putting on myself coming in after LeBron James left, and I had to take on the ropes after that. Who knows if I was ever going to live up to that ability? But I put that pressure on myself to fill some shoes that were never meant for me,” Irving said following the Nets’ win over the Cavaliers on December 26.

“I just wanted to create my own legacy. In order to do that, I had to endure some tough years where he had only a few thousand people in the stands. I was feeling at times going home feeling like a lone ranger or lone superhero trying to bring Cleveland back to the top.”

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Kyrie Irving Describes “Greatest Lesson” With Cavs

Irving’s introduction to the NBA was met with a reality check of epic proportions. In his lone season of college at Duke, he only played 11 games and was drafted at just 19 years old, expected to fill the shoes of perhaps the greatest basketball player ever.

His early years in Cleveland were not as successful as many expected. In the three seasons prior to LeBron’s return in 2014, the Cavaliers won a total of 78 games, not even coming close to a playoff berth. But upon James’ return, he and Kyrie led Cleveland to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and delivered the Cavs their first title in 2016.

Irving says the “greatest lesson” he learned in that process is that on the path to success, nobody can do it on their own.

“The greatest lesson I learned throughout that process was, it’s not a lonely road that you’re supposed to take on your own. It takes a lot of help,” Irving added.

“We had a heck of a team here that did something special that’s forever sketched in NBA history. No matter what they say about me or anybody else, you have to talk about that team.”

Kyrie Irving: “Cleveland Never in Rearview”

In the summer of 2017, Irving demanded a trade from the Cavaliers which was granted via a blockbuster deal that sent him to the Boston Celtics. It came as a surprise to many, especially after he and LeBron had easily run through the Eastern Conference en route to three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.

He may no longer be a member of the Cavaliers and has since moved on to greener pastures, but one thing the Nets star refuses to do is say that the city of Cleveland is in his “rearview”.

“Cleveland is never in the rearview, but it’s definitely something I look back on to remember what it takes to be a champion and how many years I had to endure of all the s**t talking and all the time of dealing with all of this,” Irving added.

“Everything that comes with it. People doubting and that’s what makes me great: continuing to focus on what I do best and just letting my play speak for itself.”

With Irving set to become a free agent in July, it will be interesting to see if a return to Cleveland is something that he would consider.