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LeBron James on Kyrie Irving: 'He's the most gifted player the NBA has ever seen' - NBC Sports

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Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 22: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Dallas Mavericks and LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on during the game on November 22, 2023 at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles, 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Back at the trade deadline in 2023, the Lakers and Nets talked about a Kyrie Irving trade. LeBron James wanted to reunite with the guy he won a ring with in Cleveland, Irving wanted it, but the two teams could not agree on a deal. Ultimately, Irving ended up traded to Dallas (and while the Lakers speculated last summer about a trade for Irving with the Mavericks, Dallas had no real interest).

That trade to Dallas worked out for Irving. With he and his Mavericks tipping off the NBA Finals on Thursday night and Irving looking like a mature elder statesman, LeBron had the highest praise for Irving on the “Mind the Game” podcast with LeBron and J.J. Redick that dropped Tuesday.

“I’m so f****** happy and so proud to watch him continue his growth. I’m so f****** mad at the same time that I’m not his running mate anymore.”

LeBron also referenced Irving scoring 24 points in the first half of Game 1 against the vaunted Minnesota Timberwolves defense.

“That was like, ‘Oh s***, Dallas may be able to not only win the Western Conference finals, they might be able to win the whole thing. Because of that [Irving as a] wild card. ... He’s the most gifted player the NBA has ever seen.”

High praise — and Irving will have to live up to it if Dallas is going to upset Boston and become NBA champions. Most likely, Boston will start with Jaylen Brown on Luka Doncic and Jrue Holiday on Irving — and Holiday has had success in the past at least keeping Irving in check (Irving is too skilled to be stopped, but Holiday slows him and makes him work for his points). Boston’s five-out offense is going to get points against the Mavericks. The challenge for Dallas is for their offense to keep up, and that starts with Irving.

Irving is locked in with Dallas (one more season at $41 million, then a player option for 2025-26 at nearly $44 million), and he’s at the heart of their chances to win a title in the next couple of years with Luka Doncic entering his prime. Irving has been a model teammate and citizen in Dallas, and seems comfortable and happy there.

For LeBron, all he can do is watch and imagine what might have been.

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