On Wednesday, Irving indicated that he had called James to apologize for the conflicts that led him to sometimes reject James’ attempts to lead the team.
Irving reflected on his lack of patience once James rejoined the Cavaliers in 2014 and noted the struggles that took place en route to three consecutive appearances by the Cavs in the NBA Finals:
“Obviously, this was a big deal for me, because I had to call ‘Bron and tell him I apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips, and I wanted everything at my threshold. I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that, and the responsibility of being the best player in the world and leading your team is something that is not meant for many people.
“‘Bron was one of those guys that came to Cleveland and tried to show us how to win a championship, and it was hard for him, and sometimes getting the most out of the group is not the easiest thing in the world.”
While their first season together ended with Irving suffering a fractured kneecap in the 2015 finals, the following year forever etched the two players in the history of Cleveland sports. Irving connected on a 3-pointer in the final minute of Game 7 of the finals to break a tie game and James ended up being named MVP for the series.
Following the 2016-17 season, Irving requested a trade, with some reports citing his desire to no longer play with James. He was traded to the Boston Celtics, while James left as a free agent during the past offseason to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The impetus for Irving’s call to James was related to pointed comments he had made toward his Boston teammates earlier in the week. The Celtics were largely considered to be the favorites to win the Eastern Conference this season, but have struggled to stay consistent.
Following a win over Toronto on Wednesday night, they have a 26-18 record, good for fifth place within the conference and six games behind Milwaukee.
Using his past experience as a guide for the future, Irving knows that further challenges are ahead, but is confident he can use what James taught him to lead the Celtics to another NBA title:
“Being in this position is something new for me. So I take it with a grain of salt and I just enjoy all of this. So having that moment to be able to call a guy like that where we’ve been through so much, where we won a championship together … it took a lot.
“Now I’m in this position; I asked for this and I want this. I want the responsibility. And I take it on full force. But it’s also good to reach out for help and really take responsibility for what you’ve done in your career. It takes a real man to go back, call somebody and be like, ‘Hey, man, I was young. I made some mistakes, I wasn’t seeing the big picture like you were. I didn’t have the end of the season in mind.’ I just wanted to get my stats and make All-Star Games, which in his career means like this much at that point. So it was just good, and it gave me a peace of mind to go about what I’ve gotta go do. Obviously, I’m going to be competing against him the best and everybody else in the league. But it was good.”
Cavaliers fans will have two opportunities to watch Irving and the Celtics in action before the season ends. Boston comes to Quicken Loans Arena on Feb. 5, followed by an appearance on Mar. 26.