Let’s not complicate this.
The underlying issue in the Lebron James and Kyrie Irving “beef”, if you can even call it that, is simple.
Wrong mentor and wrong pupil.
James finally responded to statements Irving made a few months ago when the All-Star guard said that playing with new teammate Kevin Durant will give him the first opportunity in his career to defer to someone who can make clutch shots down the stretch.
On the Road Trippin Podcast with ex-teammates Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye, James said the following in response to Irving’s comments.
“I was a little like, ‘Damn.’ Once I got the whole transcript, I was like, ‘Damn,’” said James. “I wasn’t like, ‘Oh, you trippin’. I’ve hit game-winning shots my whole life.’ I was not like that. I was like, ‘Damn.’ Because ... I played with Kyrie for three seasons [with the Cavaliers]. The whole time when I was there, I only wanted to see him be a MVP of our league. I only cared about his success. And it just didn’t align. It just didn’t align. And we were able to win a championship. That’s the craziest thing. We were still able to win a championship, and we could never align. But I only cared about his well-being, both on and off the floor. It kind of hurt me a little bit.”
This isn’t the time to vilify Irving or call James soft for saying he was hurt by the words of his former backcourt teammate.
This is the time to simply understand that some people aren’t meant for each other.
It may not have been any malice involved on either side. You have to remember that Irving is an individual who was influenced greatly by Kobe Bryant and his Mamba Mentality.
Through that Mamba Mentality and Irving’s confidence, he was built to take a backseat to no one, not even arguably one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball.
It’s what has made Irving one of the most skilled players in the league today.
On the other hand, James has been looked upon as the best player in the league for the past decade and has seen multiple young players grow under his tutelage.
He even once said it’s his “responsibility” to mentor young players.
These two individuals were never going to be able to “align.” They were built differently.
James saw a talented Irving in his young twenties and wanted to help him reach his potential. He would often refer to Irving as a “Kid” and probably fostered a relationship with Irving that was similar to a father or big brother.
Irving, who has decided not to talk to the press this year, never wanted that level of mentorship. If there was any player he would have given that level of reverence to it would have been Bryant, not James.
Irving wanted to be treated as a colleague, and as a partner with James on the Cavaliers. Irving saw himself as a franchise player on the same level as James, and you can’t blame him for having that level of self-confidence.
You also can’t blame James for trying to help Irving in a way that may have benefited other players. James tried to look out for Irving repeatedly, and says he even helped him get a signature shoe with Nike.
The truth of the matter is that some people respond well to having someone take them under their wing, others can find it demeaning, especially if the person trying to mentor you isn’t technically your boss.
Now, do I believe that Irving’s latest statements that shaded James were wrong? Absolutely, James has hit numerous clutch shots in his career.
But I also think Irving believed he was telling the truth.
The timing of the comments wasn’t great because it was in the middle of James trying to capture his fourth title, but it honestly wouldn’t have mattered when Irving said this, because it’s not like Irving was going to change his viewpoint.
That’s just how he is wired.
The time has come to stop reading more into this than we already have.
Irving and James are two people whose personalities were never meant to be tied together and that’s OK.
It doesn’t make either one of these great players any less of a person.