LeBron James really didn’t want his former team to trade Kyrie Irving. But he especially didn’t want the Cleveland Cavaliers to trade him to the Eastern Conference rival Boston Celtics.
James still was with the Cavs after the blockbuster trade sent Irving to Boston, and the team knew its star could opt out of his contract the following year, leaving Cleveland with a decision to make.
The Los Angeles Lakers forward opened up about the day Irving was shipped from the Cavaliers to the Celtics, noting the trade set the wheels in motion for James’ departure from Cleveland.
“Everyone knows that when Kyrie got traded it was the beginning of the end for everything,” James told The Athletic’s Joe Vardon. “It’s not a secret.”
James recounted then-Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue drove to James after he found out Irving was going to be traded. He was on the phone with general manager Koby Altman, and James pleaded for him to not trade the guard.
“James was adamant on the call — do not trade Irving, especially to the Celtics,” Vardon wrote. “By the end of the call, according to four separate accounts of people present for the conversation, Altman told James the trade would not occur.”
The trade did indeed occur, and Irving was sent to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick. James opted out of his final year with Cleveland and inked a four-year deal with the Lakers.
But after all is said and done, James said he didn’t feel betrayed by the trade.
“You realize at that point in time, take nothing from Koby,” he said. “Because Koby (was just named GM), but at that point in time, you realize that Koby’s not the only one running the team, as (former GM David Griffin) had done, and that’s why Griff was let go pretty much.”
James and the Lakers travel to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers on Wednesday night. It will mark the first time James will step foot in Quicken Loans Arena since taking his talents to the West Coast.