After demanding a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers that ultimately landed him on the Boston Celtics in the summer of 2017, Kyrie Irving made it clear he was ready to lead his own team.
Nearly a year-and-a-half later, the 5-time All-Star is still learning how hard that can be.
So much so that in the midst of a week that saw him publicly criticize his younger teammates following a three-game losing streak, Irving placed a phone call to a familiar -- albeit surprising -- face. Following the Celtics' 117-108 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night, Irving revealed that he had recently called LeBron James to apologize for how he received the 4-time MVP's own leadership during their three seasons together with the Cavs.
"This was a big deal for me, because I had to call 'Bron and tell him I apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips, and I wanted everything at my threshold," Irving told reporters. "I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that, and the responsibility of being the best in the world and leading your team is something that is not meant for many people."
James and Irving's relationship -- and the falling out that led to Irving's trade request -- has been well documented.
Upon returning to Cleveland in 2014, it didn't take long for James to take issue with what he referred to as "bad habits" built by young players like Irving and Dion Waiters prior to his arrival. In just the third game of their first season as teammates, James -- who had won two championships in four seasons with the Miami Heat -- appeared to intentionally stay out of the way, allowing Irving and Waiters to take turns chucking bad shots.
Although James and Irving did eventually gel enough to lead the Cavs to an epic comeback in the 2016 NBA Finals, a personal relationship between the two All-Stars never seemed to forge. After Irving's trade request two summers ago became public, the two traded not-so-subtle shots at one another on social media before eventually sharing an embrace following the season opener between Cleveland and Boston.
But more than a year later, Irving appears to have gained a new appreciation for James, who left the Cavs last summer to join the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent.
"LeBron was one of those guys who came to Cleveland and tried to show us how to win a championship," said Irving, whose Celtics lay claim to the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference after entering the season with championship expectations. "It was hard for him, and sometimes getting the most out of the group is not the easiest thing in the world."
Irving may not have recognized that just two years ago. It certainly appears he does now.