LeBron James can pinpoint the exact moment it all fell apart during his second tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“Everyone knows that when Kyrie [Irving] got traded it was the beginning of the end for everything," James said in an exclusive interview with The Athletic. "It’s not a secret."
It's also not a secret that the Kyrie-LeBron relationship was fractured. Badly, too.
Irving was obviously sick of playing in the shadow of LeBron -- from LeBron's on-court persona to the traveling circus he comes with as the game's top talent -- and the Cavs' attempts at using Irving as the trade piece to attract another superstar (Eric Bledsoe, Paul George) to trade had to be insulting to the man that dropped the championship-winning shot in the 2016 NBA Finals. And LeBron's refusal to commit to Cleveland beyond his contract obviously loomed over the franchise.
There was also the fact that Irving never thought he'd be 'the guy' in Cleveland.
Still, James made it clear -- he did not want Irving traded to Cleveland's greatest threat in the Eastern Conference.
According to The Athletic, James was adamant: "Do not trade Irving, especially to the Celtics." New Cavaliers general Koby Altman assured James that he would not. But moments later, the news broke that Irving was indeed going to Boston, and James 'slumped' in his chair at the alert on his phone.
It was if a Slumping James knew.
In addition to Irving absolutely thriving under Brad Stevens and helping form the Celtics' best threat for an NBA title since the days of The Big Three, LeBron was stuck with uncomfortable-fitting pieces like a broken Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, an Ante Zizic that I'm pretty sure never arrived to Cleveland, and a Brooklyn pick that didn't allow the Cavs to cash-in like the Celts did with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum in back-to-back seasons.
Nevertheless, James will return to Cleveland this Wednesday night against a Cavalier squad that's won just two of 16 games this season. And one that misses Irving just as much as they do James.
Something LeBron saw coming long before trading his Cavs jersey in for a Laker jersey.