Kyrie Irving's trade request in the summer of 2017 came as a major surprise to some, since the Cleveland Cavaliers were coming off three straight NBA Finals appearances - and the fact they were just one year removed from winning the championship.
But Irving simply decided he wanted to be the "focal point" on another team, having grown tired of being a sidekick to LeBron James. The Cavaliers reluctantly dealt Irving to the Boston Celtics, breaking up by far the greatest duo the franchise ever had.
On Wednesday, Irving told reporters that he called James and apologized for not understanding the latter's role of being a leader. The 26-year-old Irving is embracing the role of leading a fairly young Celtics roster, although there have been some challenges in getting on the same page with them.
Though Irving is now flourishing in Boston - a team that's primed to compete for many championships in the long run - a former Cavaliers teammate suggests that the All-Star point guard left Cleveland earlier than he should have.
"Kyrie knows he left a year early," the player said, via Joe Vardon of The Athletic. "We were supposed to take another run at it (last season) and then take a look at everything."
The Celtics reached the Eastern Conference Finals last year, even though Irving was forced to miss the entire postseason after undergoing knee surgery. Sure enough, James and the Cavaliers reached the Finals for a fourth straight year - but they were swept by the Golden State Warriors.
Perhaps Irving would have helped James topple the Warriors in last year's Finals, perhaps not. But Cleveland was without a stud point guard to complement James last season, and it put a major dent in their title hopes.
Sure enough, James left the Cavaliers in the offseason and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. Although it was well known that LeBron was enticed by the idea of joining the Lakers all along, you can't help but wonder if he would have stayed in Cleveland, had Irving never requested a trade.
What This Means
Irving's trade from Cleveland changed the landscape of the Eastern Conference, and it may have been a starting point in paving LeBron's exit from his hometown team once again. Maybe Irving left a year too early, but the Cavaliers were given little choice but to honor his trade request.