“No, I didn’t consult LeBron, or any of my Cavs teammates before I made the decision to ask for a trade. I thought about my future, and decided I needed to make that decision on my own. It isn’t because I have a bad relationship with anyone on the team or in the organization, I’ll always remember Cleveland for the great team, fans, and my first championship. But it was time for me to move on, and I couldn’t be happier than I am to start the next chapter of my career in Boston, playing with great teammates, under a great coach, and in a city where legends were made.”
That’s how you answer Stephen A. Smith’s question about whether he talked to LeBron about his desire to request a trade. Instead, he did this:
SMITH: Did you talk to LeBron James before you and your representatives met with ownership and let them know you wanted out.
SMITH: Why not?
IRVING: Why would I have to?
SMITH: If you don’t speak to somebody, they might take it personally.
SMITH: Do you care about that at all?
In the crazy NBA news cycle 1, everyone knows all this by now. We’ve all read or seen the interview, and we’ve found ourselves in a race to parse out every last bit of meaning we can from Irving’s words2. The most repeated motivation I’ve seen uncovered is simply that Irving is a weirdo. This is a solid take.
Irving is a cold-stare, flat earth truther who actually said, “Oh if you’re very woke, there is no such things as distractions,” later in the interview. Sure, it’s possible to explain this oddity with context, but… what?
I also heard that Irving just doesn’t care and that he didn’t owe anyone a consultation, or an explanation about how and why he chose to leave. I agree! Look, Kyrie Irving doesn’t owe Cleveland a damn thing. Nor does he owe LeBron anything, although one could reasonably argue that teammates of that caliber do owe each other respect. Which is why I contend Irving said those things, not because he doesn’t care, but because he does. Deeply.
A person who didn’t care wouldn’t go about answering those questions in a way that he knew would make these kinds of waves. The modern NBA is as much about PR as it is about points per game. Trust me, a guy wearing Nike signature shoes in a movie produced by Pepsi knows exactly what he’s doing when he writes LeBron off like that on ESPN. Maybe we’ll never know what happened between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, but there’s no doubt Irving is trying to roll up public perception and jam it up LeBron’s ass.
Good luck, kid, but it’s not going to work. LeBron has spent years building an unassailable public reputation. His brand, activism, and philanthropy combine with his on-court legacy to create a persona that post-woke Irving can’t touch. LeBron left Dan Gilbert looking like a clown, Pat Riley looking like a snake, and now Kyrie Irving sounding like a freshman sociology major explaining why he stole his dad’s care for a joyride last weekend. Hell, this era LeBron even managed to emerge from a Finals loss looking like a superhero because it took his two biggest rivals to team up before they could beat him at full strength.
LeBron James survived The Elbow, The Decision, The Letter, and “Not one, not two, not three..” to become a modern-day legend. All Irving’s interview did was give LeBron another thing to survive.
I’ll leave you with lyrics, for no other reason than this song has been stuck in my head since I imagined LeBron posting this interview to his Instagram before every game against Boston.
I’m a giant, and I ain’t gotta move ’til I’m provoked
When I see you, I’ma step on you and not even know it
You midget, mini-me with a bunch of little mini-yous
Running around your backyard swimming pools
Over 80 million records sold
And I ain’t have to do it with ten- or eleven-year-olds
I used to refer to him as Kyrie. It’s Irving now. I won’t apologize.↩