LeBron James is set to make his second return to Cleveland on Wednesday, a homecoming that should go quite differently than back in 2010 when he was mercilessly booed.
The first time James left his hometown Cavaliers, it was to chase championships in Miami. He won two and returned home to win one for Cleveland. After accomplishing that goal, James was driven away once again.
This time it wasn't to chase championships, but perhaps because the Cavs dealt a player he couldn't do without.
Once Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cavs in order to advance his career out from LeBron's shadow, James reportedly wanted the Cavs to keep Irving so they could work out their differences.
In a story by Joe Vardon of The Athletic, James not only tried to block the trade, but he explicity told Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman not to trade Irving to the Celtics.
James was adamant on the call (With Altman) — do not trade Irving, especially to the Celtics. 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 was executed minutes later, sending Irving to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a 2018 first round pick from the Brooklyn Nets.
James told Vardon in the interview, "Everyony knows that when Kyrie got traded it was the beginning of the end for everything. It’s not a secret."
James’ close friend, Randy Mims, and bodyguard Rob Brown came to him with their phones to show him the news. James, who was still signing jerseys, dropped the pen and slumped in his chair.
LeBron told Altman his wishes, but it was Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert who completed the trade with Danny Ainge. Gilbert and James have a long history of butting heads, especially after Gilbert failed to give general manager David Griffin a new contract. Maybe if Griffin stayed, Irving would not be a Celtic.
Then there is Griffin, who before he parted ways with the organization knew Irving was unhappy and had already explored some ideas of his own to trade Irving — just not to the Celtics... Griffin’s idea was to leverage Irving’s desire for change as a way to acquire Paul George, another elite player who would have helped James try to win now. But he wasn’t going to do it without first getting a new deal from Gilbert, or without talking to Irving and agent Jeff Wechsler to make sure of Irving’s feelings.
There was no guarantee Irving would have played for the Cavs last season if they kept him. It was reported Irving threatened to have knee surgery and sit out the year if he was not dealt. Unfortunately for him and the Celtics, Irving's season ended last year with that same knee surgery.
The rest is history now. Irving now leads a Celtics team with championship aspirations and plans to stay long term, LeBron has started the next chapter in his career with the Lakers, and the Cavs are hoping to land a top pick in this year's draft.
James tortured the Eastern Conference for years, and now he's gone thanks in part to the Celtics.
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