Perhaps you might have heard that Kyrie Irving asked to be traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers. And that he apparently made this request as early as last year, soon after the Cavs won the championship. And that the Cavs were already attempting to trade him this summer, and that this is part of the reason why (former) Cavs general manager David Griffin was let go last month. And that, before Kyrie made his request this year, Lebron was already pushing for him to be traded for Chris Paul. And that Kyrie has ceased contact with the Cavs. And that Lebron claimed to be blindsided and disappointed by Kyrie's trade request. And that Lebron's mom's ex-husband — a middle-aged struggle trap rapper called "Lambo" — inexplicably inserted himself into this too.
Anyway, the general consensus towards Kyrie's request seems to be "wtf are you doing, man?" He seems to be in a perfect situation. Playing with Lebron, which allows him to maximize his strength (conjuring buckets out of thin air), minimize his primary weakness (general playmaking), and also ensures that he'll be on national TV 40 nights a year and will likely be in the NBA Finals again next year. This exposure — plus his aesthetically pleasing game — has helped him be one of the NBA's five biggest stars despite being maybe the 15th or 20th best player right now. Also, he just turned 25. And if the rumors are true and Lebron is determined to leave Cleveland next year, the Cavs could be Kyrie's team for the next half decade.
Basically, Kyrie is (at best) misguided and (at worst) like the dumbest motherfucker that ever lived.
Or, perhaps, he isn't at all.
1. You know that Drake song "Shot For Me" where he establishes himself as the perhaps the Kappaiest nigga of all-time?
The way you walk, that’s me
The way you talk, that’s me
The way you’ve got your hair up, did you forget that’s me?
And the voice in your speaker right now, that’s me
And the voice in your ear, that’s me
Well, a popular sentiment about Kyrie is that Lebron is his Drake, and that all of his successes can be attributed to playing with the King. If this were you, and you (rightly) believed yourself to be as talented as Kyrie believes himself to be, wouldn't that bother you a bit? Wouldn't you want an opportunity to prove everyone wrong — especially when you're about to enter your athletic prime? Like, I don't realize if the people who lob this criticism at him realize this is exactly the reason why it makes sense for him to bounce.
2. The Cavs are still owned by Dan Gilbert, who is still the worst person in professional sports. And in Kyrie's six NBA seasons, he's played for four different coaches and has had three different general managers. There are Jenga castles on buckets of urine more stable than the Cavs' front office. Even if Lebron leaves after next season, Kyrie has zero reason to have any faith that they'll stop being a dumpster fire whose only saving graces are being lucky enough to exist a hour away from the hometown of the greatest basketball player since Michael Jordan and being shitty enough after Lebron dumped them to luck themselves into three number one picks.
3. Speaking of Lebron, the idea that he makes the game easier for his teammates is a bit of a misnomer. There's no doubt that for role players, Lebron's engulfing magnanimity practically force-feeds prime opportunities (and lucrative contracts) for them. But, for players whose skillsets are greater, it forces them to shrink themselves to find space on the King's court. We saw it with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. And we see it with Kevin Love and Kyrie. And with a player like Kyrie — who began playing with Lebron when he was 21 — you could argue that it's actually stunted his growth. While circumstances forced many of his contemporaries (namely Steph Curry, John Wall, and Damian Lillard) to develop and learn to lead on steeper curves, Kyrie has had Lebron there and hasn't had to grow the way he would have had to as the face of the franchise because Lebron is the undisputed alpha there.
Let me put it this way — and I know this analogy is awkward and maybe terrible, but bare with me — it's basically the difference between living on your own at 18 and living with your parents. Although living with your parents (in certain contexts) might be easier, living on your own — and learning, on the fly, how to cook, clean, and budget — forces you to grow in a way that living with your parents just can't replicate. And while Wall and Steph and Dame have been learning how to run their own households, Kyrie's spent the last three years as a guest in someone else's, and we'll never know if there's another level of his game to unlock if Lebron has all the keys.
4. As great as Lebron is, he is a passive-aggressive dramatic — as his lie about being blindsided by Irving's request clearly exhibits — and I can imagine that it can be exhausting working with someone like that. Lebron has also held the entire franchise hostage by refusing to communicate his plans for 2018. And, if you're Kyrie, why wait for Lebron to dictate your future — especially since he clearly has no problem dictating yours for you?
5. Cleveland is Cleveland.
And look, I'm from Pittsburgh. Which is basically Cleveland without a suntan. So I'm not going to shit on the rust belt. Because I love it. And shitting on a rusty belt might give me MRSA.
But Cleveland is Cleveland. There's a reason Bone Thugs n Harmony began Creepin On Ah Come Up with "Cleveland is the city where we come from, so run run." Because they're saying "we're getting the fuck outta this dank hellscape, and y'all need to come with us."
Ultimately, the general negative sentiment about Kyrie's request is, if not surprising, hypocritical. For the last half decade, the biggest and most consistent complaint about the league is that all of its stars are conspiring to play together and form superteams instead of beating each other. And Kyrie's request is essentially saying "You know what? I agree! Lemme see if I can lead a team without Lebron!"
Perhaps you don't think he's good enough to do that. But don't you want him to try?