‘Lot of Internal Issues’: Former NBA Star Reveals Tension between LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Teammates in Cleveland

Published 05/11/2021, 8:18 AM EDT
Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving (2) and Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James (23) return to the locker room after defeating the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, June 13, 2016. Cleveland defeated Golden State 112-97. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) (Photo by MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images)


LeBron James made his triumphant return to Cleveland in 2014. After four years in Miami, where he won two NBA titles and went to four consecutive finals, James decided to return home to fulfill a promise. The Cavaliers and LeBron had a messy separation. But all was forgiven when James returned home. But after the team won an NBA title, things weren’t always as good as they should have been.

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

The tension between LeBron James and his teammates

Former NBA star Larry Sanders spoke to Forbes about his career. Sanders spent a brief period of time playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He noted that the organization was not working as a cohesive unit while he was there. There were doubts about whether LeBron James or Kyrie Irving would return (the latter would leave for Boston), and there were conflicts between players such as James and Tristan Thompson.

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

Sanders said, “The team had so many issues. There were a lot of internal issues. We didn’t know if LeBron and Kyrie Irving were leaving. They had the scuffle on the bench between LeBron and Tristan Thompson. There was a lot of stuff going on internally. I remember being in the midst of it and I’m like the seventh, eighth or ninth project they have. I don’t think they knew what to do with anybody.”

Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James (6) talks with Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving (2) during media day the day before Game 1 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) (Photo by MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images)
DIVE DEEPER

Richard Jefferson Reveals Confrontation Between LeBron James and Coach Tyronne Lue During 2016 NBA Finals

5 months ago

These comments come as no surprise. Fans and analysts have spoken at length about the supposed tension in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ locker room. There were players that didn’t get along, and the team always had some chemistry issues. Kyrie Irving enjoyed playing with LeBron James for three seasons, before making the decision to leave the franchise in 2017. James would follow suit in 2018, signing for the Los Angeles Lakers, where he plays today.

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

James had a poor relationship with Dan Gilbert

LeBron’s major issues were less with his teammates, and more to do with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. Gilbert and James had a historically poor relationship. When LeBron didn’t get any help in Cleveland, he decided to leave the franchise and join the Miami Heat. Gilbert penned an open letter after James’ decision to leave, berating him for leaving the team, and promising that the Cavaliers would win an NBA title before James would.

Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James (23) and Richard Jefferson (24) stand on the courts after James was fouled by Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green (23) in the second quarter of their game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) (Photo by MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images)
DIVE DEEPER

‘Sticks Up Their A–es’ – Channing Frye Reveals How He Brought LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers Closer Together

4 months ago

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

James eventually returned to Cleveland to fulfill a promise, but there was very little improvement in his relationship with Dan Gilbert. He eventually delivered a championship to Cleveland, the city’s first major sports title in 52 years.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE :

ADVERTISEMENT

Aaditya Krishnamurthy

1313 articles

Aaditya Krishnamurthy is an NBA & NFL journalist for EssentiallySports, before which he worked at BusinessWorld magazine. He has been a fan of Basketball for over 10 years now, since Shaquille O’Neal was a Phoenix Suns player. During his time at Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, he started a sports magazine for the college called the Overtime Tribune and hosted the Overtime Tribune Podcast until he graduated.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT