‘Special privileges’ fueled LeBron James-Kyrie Irving rift: Kendrick Perkins
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The LeBron James-Kyrie Irving pairing produced one championship in three years.
But it has generated much more discussion since about why the two stars didn’t work as well together during their time on the Cavaliers, much of it centering around personal feelings.
“To me, it almost felt like a sense of jealousy was there on Kyrie’s part,” Kendrick Perkins, who was there in Cleveland for the end of the first season and all of the third season, said on The Ringer’s “Real Ones” NBA show.
“You have to realize, Kyrie was there, he was their guy before Bron got there, although Cleveland was in the lottery every damn year and Kyrie was the head of the snake and the No. 1 option. When LeBron came, all of a sudden you’re a contender. Well, also LeBron gets special privileges. But who gives a damn? Every team I’ve been on, the No. 1 option or the franchise guys get special privileges. But a Robin is not going to get the same privileges of a Batman. It’s just not going to happen.”
Irving was drafted No. 1 overall by the Cavaliers in 2011 and had played three seasons for them before James returned to Cleveland in 2014 — by then a four-time MVP and two-time NBA champion. Perkins, who signed with the Cavs during the 2014-2015 season, pointed to James having his own personal trainer and “medical guy” that would be in the locker room, which led to Irving eventually trying to do the same.
“He was trying to measure up and be LeBron so bad instead of just basically following his lead,” Perkins said. “All Bron was trying to do was show Kyrie the ropes and take him under his wing. It was so many times Bron deferred to Kyrie, like, ‘Here man, just take over,’ and was cool with it. … Not because he wasn’t clutch, [but] because he knew what he had in Kyrie. Like, ‘go ahead young fella, do your thing.’ So it’s hard for me to say what really went on, but I know from what I saw that Kyrie probably just got tired of Bron getting special privileges. But he’s an iconic figure, what do you expect?”
James and Irving eventually won a championship together in 2016, but just a year later, Irving forced his way out of Cleveland in a trade to the Celtics.
Their relationship came back into the spotlight recently when James said he was “hurt” by Irving’s comments suggesting that Kevin Durant was the first teammate he trusted as much as himself to make a big shot at the end of games.
“The way I described it was like big brother-little brother,” said Raja Bell, a co-host of The Ringer show who was the Cavaliers’ Director of Player Administration from 2014-2015. “Kyrie didn’t really like the little brother thing. But it wasn’t a forever. Little brothers grow up to be big brothers too. So LeBron was doing what you’re supposed to do for someone who hasn’t seen the mountaintop yet, but has the ability to be a mountaintop player on his own team.
“He was showing him the way, trying to give him the answers to the test. I think Kyrie just didn’t love the fact that he was the younger brother in that scenario. It was cool for a minute and then he didn’t want it anymore. But it was before he got all the answers. He dipped before he got all the answers.”
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