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Irving and James were an electric duo in Cleveland, making it to the NBA finals in four straight years and winning a championship together in 2016.
During an appearance on the “I AM ATHLETE” podcast that aired Monday, Irving suggested they could have won more titles if he had been more mature and hadn’t requested a trade in the summer of 2017 – one year after winning a championship.
“If I was in the same maturity line and understanding of who I am, and I look back at that time then, 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. “I didn’t know how to share my emotions. I didn’t know how to do that. So instead of sharing, I isolated myself.”
“I just started pouring myself more into the game of basketball and I had one of my better seasons, but I wasn’t connecting with everybody as much during our championship year. So in 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 you’re not clicking on all cylinders and together, you’re easily defeated. You’re defeated before you can get to the arena.”
Both James and Irving were part of the Cavaliers squad that came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Warriors during the 2016 NBA Finals. Irving made a clutch three-pointer in the fourth quarter of Game 7 to complete the comeback.
But a year later, Irving requested a trade from the Cavaliers, leading some to assume he left due to a rift between him and James. Irving said he is reminded of the fact he requested a trade to this day.
“I’m continuously reminded over and over again, ‘Yo, you left Bron. How can you do that?’” he said. “You got his fanbase, you got my fanbase, and you got team fanbases going at it, ‘Yo why couldn’t this work?’” And I say this, I asked for a trade because I was looking for something different. I was a man of my word when I went to the organization, I sat the higher ups down and said, ‘Look, I know y’all have future plans, tell me right now.’ They told me their future plans, I said, ‘Look, this isn’t for me.’”
Irving added that he regretted not speaking to James before requesting out of Cleveland.
“We didn’t talk during that time,” Irving admitted. “Again, when I look back on what I was going through at that time, I wish I did, because it would’ve been a mutual understanding of what the future will hold for both of us, and we know how much power we both had together. Me and him in the league together running Cleveland, and then being able to put a better team together every single year would’ve definitely been worth it.”
Irving played 29 games for the Brooklyn Nets last season, averaging 27.4 points and 5.8 assists per game. He made his Nets 2021-22 season debut on Jan. 5 and was a big reason why Brooklyn was able to limp into the playoffs.
Irving had refused to get a coronavirus vaccine and was ruled out by the organization at the start of the season. He later returned to play away games before New York City dropped its mandate.
It’s unclear whether Irving will be back with the Nets at this point, though he said at his end-of-season press conference that he wanted to be back.