Kyrie Irving reportedly never wanted LeBron James to return to the Cavaliers in 2014, and the relationship between the two players continued to worsen over their three seasons together.
Details on Irving and James' strained relationship were divulged in a roundtable podcast with Jason Lloyd of The Athletic, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com and Dave McMenamin of ESPN on Cleveland's 92.3 The Fan.
"It has been made clear to me by multiple people, Kyrie never really wanted LeBron to come back [to Cleveland] in the first place," Lloyd said. "He didn't think it was necessary. LeBron said something to Kyrie on the court following a game when he was with Miami something to the effect of, 'Keep going, keep doing what you're doing. You never know, I could be back here one day.' And Kyrie basically said, 'What's he talking about, we don't need him.' "
The Cavaliers selected Irving with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft. He played in Cleveland for three years before James returned. Things reportedly got heated early on when James came back from his four-year stint with the Heat.
According to Vardon, the two confronted each other in the locker room twice during the season's first week. These confrontations came after losing 101-82 to the Trail Blazers in their third game and again after losing 102-100 against the Jazz in their fourth game.
"You couldn't have started off worse than they did," Vardon said. "It just kind of carried on that way."
The Cavaliers made it to the NBA Finals that year, but Irving fractured his kneecap and missed Games 2-6. Vardon also shared that James was growing more annoyed with Irving's health issues leading up to his playoff-ending injury.
"Before Kyrie blew out his knee, he was having leg problems, he was limping through series, and taking games off,” Vardon said. “This annoyed LeBron and LeBron’s people to no end. They were calling him 'soft' and questioning his toughness, and LeBron was doing it in comments to the media. It took a while for there to be real respect between those two guys at all."
Despite the Cavs going on to win the championship in 2016, Irving almost asked for a trade.
"Kyrie and his camp considered asking for a trade after the championship," McMenamin said. "They decided to keep it in house and not go forward with it, but it was something they discussed."
Things continued to be strained in the playoffs the following year. During the second round of the playoffs against the Raptors, Irving did not interact with anyone at practice for multiple days, McMenamin added.
Later that offseason, Irving requested a trade and was dealt to the Celtics.
In six seasons with the Cavs, Irving averaged 21.6 points with 3.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
Irving and James went to the NBA Finals in each of their three seasons together, winning one title in 2016.