Kyrie Irving played for the Cavaliers from 2011-17, and was clearly a key member of the 2016 championship team.
Then he more or less demanded a trade. Looking back now, it seems he believes the Cavs could’ve won even more had he stayed.
“If I was in the same maturity line and understanding of who I am, and I look back, we definitely, definitely would’ve won more championships, because there would’ve been a better man-to-man understanding about what I’m going through,” Irving said on I Am An Athlete, via Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “I didn’t know how to share my emotions. I didn’t know how to do that. So instead of sharing, I isolated myself.”
Irving teamed up with the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson, with coach Tyronn Lue on the sideline, to deliver the Cavs’ lone title. It was the first championship in Cleveland of any kind in 42 years.
The Cavs returned to the Finals, losing to the Warriors, before Irving decided he wanted out.
“I just started pouring myself more into the game — I had one of my better seasons but I wasn’t connecting with everybody as much during the championship year,” he said. “So 2017, it was a different year for us. We went against Golden State, we went against a great team. When you’re not a great team and not clicking on all cylinders and together, you’re easily defeated. You’re defeated before you can get to the arena.”
After that 2017 season, Irving was traded from the Cavs to the Celtics. He later joined the Nets. It’s still a bit hard to know if Brooklyn is where he’ll remain even next season.
Irving admitted to sitting with Cavs president of basketball operations Koby Altman and other members of front office, and expressing his desire for a trade. He was China and did not have a chance to talk to James, he said, when word of the meeting leaked.
“I’m not even on American soil so I can’t even get on to defend myself … and I didn’t have a sense of how to manage that when all the media’s coming after me,” Irving said. “It took me six years to even talk about it openly because I’m comfortable with my decision. Before I was questioning, ‘Yo, did I do this the right thing? I left one of the best players in the game.’ And I started listening to that.
“That’s where the mental health comes into play, because when you start believing what other people say about you, you become a shell of yourself. … You’re trying to be perfect for others that don’t really give a f–k about whether or not you breathe another day. ‘You’re just another motherf—er we can just troll or hate on.’ So I had to make the shift. … I started digging deep into Islam.