Kyrie Irving dropped a little bit of a bombshell on the NBA world Wednesday night, revealing he called his old teammate LeBron James with an apology (!!!) after the Celtics’ loss to the Magic on Jan. 12. Irving made this reveal after a virtuoso performance in a Boston win over the Raptors, a game in which Irving scored 27 points while dishing 18 assists.
First, a recap: Irving called James to apologize after Irving got a taste recently of the responsibilities that come with being a veteran leader. Irving made some waves earlier this month when he gave a light, public scolding to the team’s younger players, saying their (lack of) experience was a reason for the team’s inconsistent performance. Jaylen Brown mildly fired back a few nights later, saying the entire team needs to be held accountable. Irving’s public comments were perplexing, considering he paternalized his teammates in way not dissimilar to how LeBron often did in Cleveland—a tactic that eventually made Irving want to skip town.
“I had to call ‘Bron. I apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips,” Irving said Wednesday. “Sometimes getting the most out of the group is not the easiest thing in the world. I feel like the best person to call was him, because he’s been in this situation...I’ve been the 22-year-old kid wanting everything.”
What does this all mean? Here are three quick thoughts on The Call.
1. Can You Trust Kyrie?
Here’s the thing: Kyrie Irving knows how to make a splash. It can be a little unclear from him at times what’s performance and what’s genuine. I certainly don’t think he’s lying about making the phone call to James, but why make it public? Irving could have left his phone call to Bron private while still apologizing to his teammates through the media. What’s Irving’s angle here? I don’t think him and Bron are best buds, but they’ve probably been cool for a while. (Things certainly seemed fine when they were All-Star teammates last year.) Not unlike Irving himself when he watches a YouTube video, my first reaction to Kyrie’s admission was there has to be more beneath the surface. Maybe Irving really did recognize his teammate criticisms felt a little hypocritical so he made the call to James. But I’m much more interested in putting on my foil ballcap and recklessly speculating on what Irving (and maybe James!) have to gain from this call becoming widespread knowledge. Are things ever really just as simple as one apology phone call in the NBA? Is this all going to result in some kind of shoe commercial? Will this somehow have an impact on Irving’s free agency? I’m obviously getting ahead of myself, but Irving had to know that’s what was going to happen when he made his comments. What if he wants everyone to start thinking?
2. Did LeBron James Even Want an Apology?
Personally, I believe in forgiveness. When someone has realized they’ve messed up and they genuinely show remorse, let them move on with their lives. But I also sure as hell don’t blame those who don’t want to hear an apology from people who messed with their livelihoods. I’m dying to know how James really felt during that phone call. (We’ll probably have to wait for an episode of The Shop in which Lil Uzi Vert asks James about the moment to find out Bron’s true reaction.) Maybe Bron is forgiving. Or maybe James hung up the phone and got even more mad that Irving’s refusal to accept his leadership made him carry a lifeless Cavs squad to slaughter in the 2018 Finals. LeBron probably thought about punching another whiteboard before pouring himself a tallboy of his finest red. You know who probably would’ve known the score in that Finals game? Kyrie Irving, someone with a penchant for making big plays in high-pressure moments. Of course, James is in L.A. now and sipping on his way to games; he’s enjoying life as a Laker. But with the kind of competitor LeBron is—and how grossly overmatched he was against Golden State—I wouldn’t be shocked if he felt Kyrie’s mea culpa was too little, too late.
3. What Was the Small Talk Like?
Anybody who has ever had to make a difficult phone call knows you can’t jump straight into the vulnerable moment. What on god’s green earth did Kyrie and LeBron talk about before the apology? Did Kyrie ask LeBron about his health? Did they rag on Dan Gilbert? Maybe complain some more about Kevin Love? Did James immediately assume something was wrong when he saw Irving’s name pop up on his caller ID? How did Irving segue from listening to Bron brag about the L.A. sunshine into his apology? Did Kyrie literally use the words, “I’m sorry?” I honestly couldn’t know enough about every moment of this phone call, and the non-apology parts are arguably more interesting than the apology itself. One thing is for sure: When it comes to the Kyrie-LeBron relationship, the attention is going to last a lot longer than one postgame media scrum. Hopefully we get answers sooner rather than later.