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LeBron James’s Mixed Feelings About Former Running Mate

Former Cleveland Cavaliers teammates LeBron James and Kyrie Irving share a laugh

Kyrie Irving’s decision to re-sign with the Dallas Mavericks was a shrewd one, as his redemption arc has been one of the best parts of the season.

Irving didn’t quite test free agency last summer, but there were plenty of people that believed he could join LeBron James with the Los Angeles Lakers. In January, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne claimed Irving had a “strong interest” in reuniting with James. However, if the Lakers did bring him onboard, it’s unclear whether Irving would’ve achieved the inner peace —and ultimately the improved sense of self —that he has with the Mavs.

LeBron James Reveals Mixed Feelings About Kyrie Irving

With any living organism, the environment that they’re in affects their growth as their innate traits.

In both L.A. and Dallas, there was pressure to succeed, but there would’ve been more with the Lakers. The esteemed franchise has won 17 NBA championships, leading to unwieldy expectations. This cumbersome burden is then doubled because —as arguably the best player of all-time —James has the highest bar to reach in the league. Furthermore, because James and Irving have already proven they can win together, the failure to win a ring would be seen as an abject disappointment.

The Mavs are just happy to compete. With one NBA championship, their franchise isn’t expecting to run the gauntlet. Even with a Hall of Fame-caliber player like Luka Doncic, Dallas hasn’t been fixated on a dynasty. They just want to deliver at least one ring to the Wonder Kid. It’s just different.

All in all though, it’s worked out for Irving. The Mavs organization, fan base, and media are fond of him on and off the court. This is largely due to his otherworldly ability. However, it’s also because Irving’s been more measured and mature. It’s because he’s been happier and more agreeable.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed. Not by anyone.

“…I’m so f****** happy and so proud to watch him continue his growth…,” James tells co-host JJ Redick on the Mind the Game podcast. “At the same time, I’m so f****** mad that I am not his running mate anymore. I just remember those times.

…To have a guy like Kyrie Irving as the ultimate wild card? That’s like having a Draw 4 in your hand every time someone deals you cards in Uno,” he continues. “Like every single time.”

“Listen, I would call Kyrie ‘the wizard’ all the time. Like, all the time. Like, there was nothing on the basketball floor that Kyrie couldn’t do.”

James and Irving were teammates on the Cleveland Cavaliers for three seasons, winning a championship together in 2016. Had Irving’s knee not gave out in Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals, they very well could have won two rings. With that said, Irving’s arguably the second-best sidekick that James has had, behind Dwyane Wade.

Unfortunately, their partnership didn’t last long.

There are multiple factors that led to both players leaving the Cavs. Irving wanted to escape from James’s enormous shadow and prove he could win without him. He also became disenchanted with their future, rightly believing both David Griffin and James would be out of the door soon. Perhaps most importantly, the Cavs struck out on Paul George. The All-Star swingman went so far as to make a home visit to James after King Arthur and Merlin decided they needed Lancelot at the Round Table. Yet, Cavs general manager Koby Altman refused to trade an unprotected first-rounder for George, putting the franchise on a roller coaster ride that they’re still on.

Will They Ever Team Up Again?

Unless James decides to sign with the Mavs, the chances of him teaming up with Irving again are low. Doncic has accepted Irving as both a brother-in-arms and a mentor. The Mavs have accepted him as a leader. Signed with Dallas through 2025-26, Irving has a player option on the final year of his contract.

That said, Irving could leave the Mavs next summer to join James, wherever he may be. In fact, as James has a player option on his contract for 2024-25, they could become free agents at the same time. If the two really do want to reunite, all they’d have to do is plan it out.


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