The Cleveland Cavaliers were able to fight their way back to the NBA Finals last year even after trading Kyrie Irving, but it sounds like LeBron James never thought they had a real chance at winning a title after the star point guard was dealt.

In a recent interview with Joe Vardon of The Athletic, James reflected on the Irving deal and described it as “the beginning of the end” in Cleveland.

“Everyone knows that when Kyrie got traded it was the beginning of the end for everything,” he said. “It’s not a secret.”

James may not have begged Irving to stay in Cleveland, but it sounds like he did what he could to prevent the trade from happening. According to Vardon, multiple sources who witnessed the conversation say LeBron told Cavs GM Koby Altman in a phone call on Aug.22, 2017, not to trade Irving — specifically not to the Boston Celtics. That was minutes before news broke that Kyrie was on the move.

It’s clear that James believes Altman was following the orders of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.

“You realize at that point in time, take nothing from Koby, because Koby (was just named GM), but at that point in time, you realize that Koby’s not the only one running the team, as (former GM David Griffin) had done, and that’s why Griff was let go pretty much,” he said.

Cavs officials told Vardon that LeBron was never given any indication that Irving would not be traded, and they noted that they asked LeBron if he would sign long-term if they did not trade Irving and he refused to commit.

LeBron’s presence is one of the main reasons Irving wanted out of Cleveland, but James must have felt he could remedy the situation with Kyrie having two years left on his contract. If you want to know how Cavs players aside from James felt about the trade, this quote should sum it up for you. Once that deal was made, the Cavs no longer had the missing piece needed to compete with the Warriors. LeBron is more comfortable admitting that now that the next chapter of his career is well underway.

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