NEW YORK — As Kyrie Irving watches Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James continue to rise up the NBA record books at age 38, he does so with admiration, but not surprise.
Irving, the Brooklyn Nets All-Star guard, spent three years playing with James as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the pair helped the franchise win the 2016 NBA championship.
“I definitely saw this when we were playing together,” Irving said after Monday night’s 121-104 win over the Lakers. “His ability to prepare himself mentally, spiritually, emotionally, game to game, day to day. I’ve been quoted on saying it’s hard to be LeBron James, or any superstar, or any entertainment, sport, athletic or business industry, because all eyes are on you. But he’s handled it extremely well.”
James, who did not play Monday because of left ankle soreness, watched from the Lakers’ bench as Irving delivered 26 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Irving said he wished he could have played against James on Monday, but spoke with appreciation about the legacy the future Hall of Famer has left on the game.
“We gave the keys to the whole entire business to an 18-year-old kid and now he’s 38 years old and he’s still dominating,” Irving said of James. “I don’t think we should be surprised. I think we should congratulate and celebrate him as much as possible. Continue to enjoy the shows that he put on because it’s not going to be for too much longer.
“Whenever he decides to play [until], I’m enjoying the show. And I wish we could have gotten a chance to play against one another but who knows what can happen down the line?”
Irving, a vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, said the NBA and NBPA remain in a “figuring-out process” in regards to finding ways in the schedule for star players, like James, to be able to play and not miss one end of a back-to-back as was the case for both James and Anthony Davis in advance of Tuesday’s game against the New York Knicks. James’ Lakers jerseys dotted the sold-out crowd inside Barclays Center on Monday night.
“I see it from both sides,” Irving said of the conversation regarding star players and the schedule. “And I have to sit in the middle and just say we have things in the works right now that we talk about, but all in all, everybody’s body is different, everybody’s will to play is different and everybody’s desire to be out there is different. I just think those that are available to play will play and those that are not, you just got to respect their bodies and respect what they do.”