"It was a lot for me to figure out."
Kyrie Irving knows better than anyone what it's like to play alongside LeBron James and everything else that comes with it.
As the young Los Angeles Lakers look to build a championship squad around the four-time MVP, ESPN recently linked up with Irving for some insight into what it takes to be King James' sidekick. Simply put, Kyrie says, "It's definitely a challenge."
"It’s definitely a challenge,” Irving told ESPN in regards to playing alongside James. “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.”
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The LeBron-less Lakers picked up a 113-100 victory against the Detroit Pistons last night, thanks to Kyle Kuzma's career-high 41 points in just 29 minutes of action. James, who is nursing a groin injury, is expected to be reevaluated later this week but the expectations for the team remain high, as Kyrie knows all too well.
“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.”