Most would think that playing with the best player on the planet is about as easy as it gets. But when a guy like LeBron is in your locker room, things are a little more complicated than people realize.
Kyrie Irving recently elaborated on this premise, telling the world what it was like to play alongside LeBron James.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Irving told ESPN. “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.”
It’s that type of pressure Irving grew tired of.
“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. 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.”
It must have been the loss of his “sense of self” that drove him away from Cleveland. For years before LeBron got there, he grew and learned, becoming the star that everyone in Cleveland hoped he’d be. LeBron arrived and changed everything right away. Suddenly, Kyrie was questioning himself in ways he never would have before.
LeBron isn’t the only one that has had this effect either. Kobe, MJ, and basically all of the All-Time greats have brought the pressure with them in any setting they found themselves in, a pressure that often engulfed the entire team.
And, like it or not, it’s not something that people get used to right away.