One might think that playing alongside one of the greatest NBA players in the history of the game would be a good thing, right? Well, that depends on who you are, and who that player you’re playing alongside of is. At least, that’s the takeaway from a recent conversation Kyrie Irving had with ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
Irving, who requested the Cavaliers trade him back in July of 2017, reportedly to be more of the focal point of a team instead of playing second fiddle to James, has previously seemed unwilling to discuss what life on the court was like with LeBron.
But now, as it’s the Lakers players turn to figure out how to proceed both with (and now without, as with James is on the shelf with an injury) their new go-to option, Irving has decided to be more open about what it was like to share the court with the King.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Irving told ESPN when asked about playing alongside James. “You now become part of a championship-caliber team based on a unique talent. LeBron is so smart, so talented, such a strong leader. And you’re trying to implement who you are, and grow as a player and learn every single day. And it can be difficult because it demands a lot of you.
“Certain times young players — and even older ones — find it a big transition, because you’re playing a certain way, and growing as a player, and you have a vision of what your career will look like. And then this player of such great stature arrives, and you’re still trying to be great, and he’s already great. And you find yourself asking, ‘OK, what are the steps to get there?’ So now do you learn by example from watching him? Do you learn by the way he treats his body? By the way he treats his business off the court? By his philanthropic path? So you just watch and you observe.”
“You also have to be aware of the expectations from the outside and how that can infiltrate your thinking,” Irving said. “Somehow it ends up where everybody wants to play the blame game when things don’t go right. So it’s just a lot to get used to. It comes with a lot of pressures. I believe the very, very special ones, the unique ones, gladly take on that challenge, and they relish it. You can’t be afraid to challenge another great person. That’s how greatness is achieved.”
“It was a lot for me to figure out,” Irving says of playing with James. “The belief I have in myself goes way beyond anything that could deter me from what I want to accomplish. You can never ever, ever, ever, ever lose your sense of self while you are playing alongside a great player.”
All of that appears to be something that, based on his performance on Wednesday, Lakers young gun Kyle Kuzma is going to have to figure out sooner rather than later.