Kyrie Irving ended his six-year stay at the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Boston Celtics in 2017, thus ending his partnership with LeBron James.
Irving won rookie of the year in his first season with the Cavaliers in 2012 and the following season saw him make his first appearance in the NBA All-Star game. He formed a strong partnership with James, once he returned from his stint with the Miami Heat, and helped lead the Cavaliers to three straight NBA Finals.
All three finals were contested between the Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors — after losing the 2014-15 final, James led his team to victory the following year. But he was unable to repeat the task in 2017 as they succumbed to Stephen Curry’s Warriors in five games.
James and Irving were inseparable during their three years together at the Cavaliers, but talks of a rift began to make rounds after the final in 2017. It was played down by the franchise hierarchy and it came as a surprise when the latter reportedly asked to be traded prior to the start of the 2017-18 season.
The 26-year-old joined the Celtics as part of a trade that saw Isiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and two Draft picks go the Cavaliers’ way and was immediately their focal point as the regular season got underway. He played a key role in helping them dominate the Eastern Conference, but missed the last 15 games of the regular season due to a knee injury which eventually saw the Celtics finish second behind the Toronto Raptors.
Richard Jefferson, Irving’s former teammate at the Cavaliers, revealed the reason for the point guard leaving the team was not due to the rift with James, but to move out of the shadow of the three-time NBA champion and fulfill his potential.
“Kyrie, it wasn’t about ‘Bron,’” Jefferson said, as quoted on NESN.com. “Kyrie was about Kyrie achieving the most as he could as an individual player. He feels that, ‘Hey, I enjoyed the role of being a (Scottie) Pippen, but now it’s time for me to go be a (Michael) Jordan and lead a team.’”
“You saw how great Boston was all year and how dominant they were when he was healthy. You can see he can be that guy, and he was that guy all regular season. It was just a matter of him doing it in the playoffs, which the injury didn’t allow him,” he added.
The Celtics are currently leading the Milwaukee Bucks 2-0 in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Their third game is Friday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Irving is not available for the rest of the season after the Celtics point guard required surgery to treat the knee soreness that has troubled him this season. The surgery was on the same knee he fractured during the 2015 NBA finals.