- Tim Warner/Getty Images
- Kyrie Irving called LeBron James to apologize for bristling as James’ leadership tactics when they were with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
- When James received the call, he was dining with Kevin Love, who made up one-third of the Cavs’ Big Three that was broken up when Irving requested a trade to get away from James.
- Irving admitted he didn’t see the “big picture” with the Cavs, and now realizes James was trying to instill a winning culture with the team. Irving is trying to do the same with the Celtics this season.
When Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2017, one of the reported reasons was that he had grown weary of LeBron James’ at-times aggressive leadership tactics and outsized influence on the locker room and organization.
Irving had reportedly grown weary of playing second fiddle to James – who often subtly critiqued Irving through the press – and desired to lead a team of his own.
Now, in his second year with the Boston Celtics, trying to lead a team that over-achieved last year while short-handed, Irving has a different perspective on that leadership.
After helping the Celtics snap a three-game losing streak on Wednesday with a win over the Toronto Raptors, Irving told reporters that he called up James to apologize for the way he acted with the Cavs and the way he reacted to James.
Incredibly, when Irving called James, James was dining in Los Angeles with Kevin Love, whose Cavs were in town to play the Los Angeles Lakers, according to The Athletic’s Joe Vardon.
“LeBron looked down at his phone, and he showed us,” Love told The Athletic. “He was like, ‘I wonder what he wants?’ … I was having some vino and enjoying the night when LeBron showed me the call.”
It had been a turbulent week for Irving and the Celtics, who had lost three straight while Irving: yelled at head coach Brad Stevens over a play call, yelled at Gordon Hayward for an on-court decision, and chided the young Celtics players for not knowing how to win, comments which rubbed some of his teammates the wrong way.
On Wednesday, Irving elaborated on calling James.
“I had to call [LeBron] and tell him I apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips, and I wanted everything at my threshold,” Irving said. “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 in the world and leading your team is something that is not meant for many people.
“[LeBron] was one of those guys who 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.”
Irving said it took a “real man” to call James and tell him he realized he didn’t see the big picture. He said he’s still learning how to lead with the Celtics.
“Being in this position is something new for me,” Irving said. He added: “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.'”
According to Vardon, James called Irving back privately. James’ camp didn’t share details of the call but said James was touched by Irving reaching out to him.
After getting a win over the No. 1 team in the East while scoring 27 points with 18 assists, perhaps Irving can help turn the Celtics around and have the season many expected.