"He stood up for himself. He showed a lot of courage, man."
Playing alongside LeBron James, the best player in the NBA, and competing for an NBA championship year after year is something that few players would willingly walk away from. When Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers this off-season he was called a lot of things, including, but not limited to, stupid, foolish, and short-sighted.
One thing you didn't hear was anyone calling Kyrie "courageous." That is, until Kevin Durant voiced his opinion on the matter.
The NBA Finals MVP recently made an appearance on The Bill Simmons Podcast to talk about the trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, big man Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn Nets' unprotected 2018 first round pick.
In speaking about Kyrie, KD says he appreciates what he did and says the 25-year old 4x All-Star showed a lot of courage.
Durant told Simmons (per ESPN),
"He did what he was supposed to do in Cleveland. It's on to the next chapter," Durant said on "The Bill Simmons Podcast." "I can really appreciate what he did. He stood up for himself. He showed a lot of courage, man, because it's hard to take that type of criticism. When you just want to play ball. I feel him on that.
"I just think Kyrie just wanted a place where he can focus on just playing basketball and not worrying about the other drama that comes with [playing alongside LeBron James]. It just felt like he wanted a situation where he would just be free from all of that and just play.
"When you're around LeBron James, there's so much that comes with that. Outside distractions and conversations and just noise that just comes around, just from being around LeBron James. And Kyrie was at the point, like, 'All right, we lost the championship. This whole season's gonna be about if LeBron's gonna leave or not. I'm ready for a new challenge.' All that stuff kind of met at the pinnacle of why he wanted to leave."
Durant also compared himself to Kyrie, telling Simmons, "he reminds me of myself as far as just loving to play the game, just wanting to learn it and try to get better at it every day. I can feel that. I can sense that in him."
KD obviously has experience when it comes to parting ways with a superstar teammate, although when he left Russell Westbrook in OKC, he was joining a team that was clearly better positioned for a championship run. It remains to be seen if Kyrie and his Celtics teammates will be able to overthrow LeBron and the Cavs, let alone the defending champion Warriors.
You can check out Durant's discussion with Bill Simmons right here.