Kyrie Irving thought he was LeBron James but isn’t even close
Kyrie Irving teamed with LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers for three seasons, learning what he could from The King and absorbing the playbook for becoming an NBA champion. He learned so much in his time with James that he thought he was ready to leave after three seasons and lead his own team. He even forced his way out by demanding a trade to a location of his choice — the Boston Celtics — perhaps accelerating LeBron’s move to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Irving’s second season in Boston — his first full season as a team leader — ended in complete disappointment with a loss in the Eastern Conference semifinals in five games to the Milwaukee Bucks. It was the cherry on top a season full of disappointment and discord within the Celtics.
The way the season unfolded should teach Irving a lesson: He isn’t LeBron James. He’s not even close.
Throughout the 2018-19 season, Kyrie tried to act like LeBron. He called out his team’s youngsters, saying they didn’t understand what it took to win a championship. He thought he was being a leader, trying to get the young players to play on the level he wanted. That seemed to be a typical LeBron move around January/February during the regular season. Instead, Irving’s comments backfired and only served to alienate some of the players who had led the team to Game 7 of the conference finals while Irving was injured last year.
Even amid the team’s inconsistency, Irving declared in February that he didn’t see anyone beating Boston in the playoffs. That was another move straight from the LeBron playbook of: “I’m not worried about regular season issues; I’ll turn it on in the playoffs when it matters.” James used to rest minutes in the regular season with the Cavs and then focus in extra for the playoffs, when he’d take his game to another level. It worked because James was the best player in the game. Kyrie is not.
Fans heard it all season from Irving. These youngsters don’t know what it takes to win, I do. Even if things aren’t going well now, we’ll come through in the playoffs.
That sort of rhetoric can be trusted when it’s LeBron James saying it. Irving saying it is another thing. We waited, we gave him his chance to deliver, and he failed.
After sweeping the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, Irving’s Celtics lost in five to the Bucks. Irving shot 35.2 percent for the series and was an atrocious 20/83 (30.1 percent) over the final four games against Milwaukee. He crumbled in the postseason and proved he’s can’t take a team to the Finals trying to do it all on his own. He needs to trust his teammates more and stop thinking that he’s LeBron James, because he’s not at that level of a player.