Don’t get it twisted: LeBron James is the reason Kyrie Irving left the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not the other way around.

Stephen A. Smith chose to make that stance clear Wednesday on ESPN’s “First Take” while discussing the relationship between James and Irving.

James recently told The Athletic — ahead of his first trip to Cleveland as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night — that the Cavaliers’ decision to trade Irving to the Boston Celtics in the summer of 2017 was the “beginning of the end.” James, of course, spent last season in Cleveland after the Irving trade, guiding the Cavs to the NBA Finals, before signing with the Lakers in free agency this past offseason.

It’s fair to wonder whether James would have stayed in Cleveland had the Cavs not traded Irving. But Irving requested a trade, largely, as Smith points out, because he saw the forest for the trees. He no longer wanted to play alongside James but perhaps also realized he was better off forcing his way out of town to avoid becoming part of a rebuild if/when James left in free agency.

Thumbnail photo via Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports Images

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