Former Cleveland Cavaliers GM explains why LeBron James and Kyrie Irving could not co-exist

  • After years of playing on a lousy team, Kyrie Irving wanted a chance to see how good he could be as the leader of a good group, according to the former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager. 
  • But LeBron's return to Cleveland denied Irving that opportunity. 
  • Furthermore, Irving and LeBron's skills overlapped too much to make the pair a natural fit. 


Former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin recently made an appearance on Bill Simmons' podcast and gave some more insight into why Kyrie Irving wanted to leave LeBron James and a guaranteed shot at contending for NBA titles every year. 

"I think the fit of LeBron and Kyrie was difficult because Kyrie was so good offensively, had been carrying the load offensively for a bad team, hadn't been raised to understand how to lead and help you win necessarily, hadn't been given that opportunity yet, and just when we're gonna be good LeBron shows up, and it's his team," Griffin said. 

"So he never got the chance to take the natural progression in his career where he had to try to carry the load and see how good he could be. And he really wanted that. He'd been doing it on a bad team, he wanted a chance to do it on a good team. And it wasn't about being 'The Man,' it's 'How good can I be?' 'What am I capable of?'" 

See the two players together through the years: 

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Kyrie Irving and LeBron James' relationship through the years
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Kyrie Irving and LeBron James' relationship through the years
Miami Heat forward LeBron James (L) tries to get past Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving in the first quarter of their NBA basketball game in Miami, Florida, February 7, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, left, and Miami Heat forward LeBron James stand near one another during the fourth quarter at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, Sunday, February 24, 2013. The Heat defeated the Cavaliers 109-105. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
INDEPENDENCE, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: Kevin Love #0, Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers poses for a photo during media day on September 26, 2014 at the Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NBAE via Getty Images)
Dec 2, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (right) and guard Kyrie Irving (2) react in the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
January 16, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and guard Kyrie Irving (2) react during the 126-121 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers in the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK, NY - December 4: Tristan Thompson #13, LeBron James #23 and Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the national anthem before the game against the New York Knicks on December 4, 2014 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 26: Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate during the first half against the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena on February 26, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 10: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers hugs Kyrie Irving #2 after a win against the Chicago Bulls in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on May 10, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cavaliers defeated the Bulls 86-84. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agress that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 28: Kevin Love #0 Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the Cleveland Cavaliers media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts on September 28, 2015 in Independence, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 2: Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers talk on the court during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on January 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 1: LeBron James #23 and Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate after the game against the Indiana Pacers on February 1, 2016 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 17: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers speak at a post game press conference after the game against the Toronto Raptors in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on May 17, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 27: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate after a victory in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Toronto Raptors during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on May 27, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 01: LeBron James #23 and Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers laugh during a conversation at practice for the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 1, 2016 in Oakland, California. The Warriors will take on the Cavaliers on June 2, 2016. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 13: Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers react during the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 13, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate after winning Game Seven of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors on June 19, 2016 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13: NBA players LeBron James (L) and Kyrie Irving attend the 2016 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 15: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates a second half dunk with Kyrie Irving #2 while playing the Indiana Pacers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on April 15, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won the game 109-108 to take a 1-0 series lead. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 04: Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers laugh during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on March 4, 2017 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 09: Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers high five against the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the 2017 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 9, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 17: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers goes to greet Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics prior to playing at at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 17: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics shake hands after a Cavaliers 102-99 victory at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 17: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics embrace after a Cavaliers 102-99 victory at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Griffin also pointed out that because LeBron and Kyrie both had skills suited towards being the number one option on an offense, that Kyrie operating as LeBron's sidekick would not have been as natural of a fit as it was for the defensively-oriented Scottie Pippen to be Michael Jordan's sidekick. 

And, interestingly, when talking about another famous NBA teammate divorce, Griffin said that he felt Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant had a much more toxic personal relationship with each other than LeBron and Kyrie did.

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