LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are the best 1-2 punch in basketball since the legendary pairing of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, according to Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue.
James and Irving were phenomenal during the 7-game NBA Finals series against the Golden State Warriors this year as the Cavs returned from a 3-1 deficit to win their first-ever championship.
With 53 seconds left in Game 7, Irving made the clutch shot heard around the world that helped the Cavs seal the deal.
After making that clutch shot, Irving said he channeled his inner ‘Mamba Mentality’, something that Lue wanted the young guard to embrace.
“I told him (Irving), ‘You want to have a Kobe mentality? Kobe didn’t give a f–k. He don’t care. Whatever the outside is saying, he don’t care. Kobe’s going to be Kobe,” Irving told Bleacher Report in an interview.
LeBron James the new Shaq?
Lue compared James to O’Neal, who was the alpha male of the Los Angeles Lakers’ three-peat championship team (1999-2002) and Irving to Bryant, who was the rising star.
“It’s like it’s the same. Shaq was already established and was older than Kobe, and he was the most dominant player in the league.
“And Kobe was always striving to be better—to be the best player ever. That was his goal,” added Lue, who was a part of that Lakers team between 1998 and 2001.
Lue predicted that the world will see a more matured version of Irving this upcoming season.
“After winning the championship last year, Kyrie had the chance to go win the gold medal. Coming back this year, you can tell he’s really worked on his game—and he’s worked on his body.
“He wants to take that next step. He’s very capable of doing it,” added the coach of the Cavaliers.
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However, Lue was quick to point out that the Irving-James duo is capable of surviving the test of time, unlike the O’Neal-Bryant combo which was broken up in 2004 due to several factors.
“Not at all,” Lue said when asked if there’s a chance for a discord between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James.
“They have a great relationship, LeBron and Kyrie. LeBron’s been like a big brother, bringing Kyrie along, teaching him how to be a professional and take care of his body, saving energy, eating better.
“Things like that that Kyrie didn’t have before LeBron got here because they had a young team,” added Lue.
When O’Neal and Bryant were a tag team, there were several rumors that the superstar center felt threatened by the ambitions of the younger star, who clearly wanted to be the best player on the court.
However, James only cares about the win column, according to Lue.
“LeBron has showed him (Irving) the right way—and he has the respect of being a champion before and being the best player in the league for several years, carrying the league.
“What better mentor could you have?”
LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers will begin their title defense during their regular season opener against the New York Knicks on Oct. 26.