LeBron James: I shielded Kyrie Irving from media scrutiny and he took shot at me

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LeBron James: I shielded Kyrie Irving from media scrutiny and he took shot at me

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James claims he was mentally prepared for a distraction during the NBA Finals but he was a bit stunned when it came from ex-teammate Kyrie Irving. Irving, who played with James in Cleveland and now plays with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn, said two months ago for the first time in his career he has a teammate in who he trusts more than himself to take the last shot.

James was disappointed after Irving took a shot at him but he still led the Lakers to a 4-2 win over the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. "It's always been something that, when I've been in the Finals, that comes out to try to distract me from my mission.

So I was already ready for it ... I've always been prepared to know that there's going to be something said or done to try to knock me off of my mission," James said, per ESPN. "When I was seeing that and I read it, and then I got the full transcript and I heard it, I was like, 'Man, f---.'

I was like, 'Are you f---ing kidding me?' ... I was like, 'God damn.' "

James had lots of respect for Irving and his game

"Ky is one of the most talented players I've ever played with in my life.

The kid -- I don't even want to call him 'kid.' He's not a kid anymore, but back then, he was. He was a young kid still growing into his own, and the s--- that he was capable of on the floor I had never seen before," James said.

"I had so much confidence in him. I actually told Kyrie, I told him at one point when we were playing together that if you were not a league MVP someday, then you were selling yourself short. Because that's how much I believed in him.

"And it was part of the reason why I came back home. Besides the unfinished business, I came back home because I saw the talent in him." James noted that he never wanted to publicly criticize Irving and throw him under the bus during their time in Cleveland.

"Anytime the media would ask questions about Kyrie -- and we had multiple times when the media wanted to s--- on Kyrie -- I was the buffer," James said. "I was like, 'No, listen, you guys are tripping. This kid is young, he's great, he's going to learn, I'm here to help him learn, and I know what he's going to become.'

"And sometimes, you know, you put yourself out there, and you get hit in the mouth when you're not ready for it."