The unrequited high-five is one of the NBA’s great pleasures. D’Angelo Russell once high-fived himself when his Los Angeles Lakers teammates failed to reciprocate. Phil Jackson tried to play one off by rubbing his face when Kobe Bryant left him hanging. And Kevin Love, well, that one was truly awkward.
But this one? This one, reportedly involving Kyrie Irving’s father and LeBron James’ childhood friend, is anything but gratifying, and it may have been one of the many roots that allowed a feud between Love’s current and former Cleveland Cavaliers teammates to blossom into a full-blown poison tree.
One day during the three years LeBron James and Kyrie Irving spent as teammates, Drederick Irving was exiting the Cavs’ locker room when Randy Mims was entering. Mims, one of James’ lifelong friends and an official Cavs employee, reached out his hand to slap Drederick five. But Dred, Irving’s father, pulled his own arm back and refused the gesture.
When James later asked Irving about the incident and if there was something wrong, Irving said his father believed they shouldn’t be “fraternizing with the enemy.” Three sources with knowledge of the exchange independently confirmed it to The Athletic, revealing just a glimmer of light into a fractured relationship that both men hid well during their time together.
It’s all very strange, but the “fraternizing with the enemy” bit is probably the most confusing. Does Irving’s father reportedly consider Mims the enemy because he’s an extension of the organization in his capacity as an executive administrator for the Cavaliers? Or because he’s associated with LeBron?
Lloyd’s account of Drederick’s frustration with the Cavs — from their personnel decisions to their contract negotiating tactics and their handling of his son’s injuries — seems to suggest the former.
Irving has been vague about his reasons for wanting off the Cavs after three straight trips to the NBA Finals, citing personal growth as his primary incentive, and the most tangible explanation for not wanting to play with one of the game’s greats any longer was a desire to “actually play point guard.”
But this bit from an extensive ESPN.com report in July, which dove deep on the “weeks of dysfunction” leading up to Irving’s trade request — from Irving’s uncertainty surrounding LeBron’s impending free agency to his frustration over playing with a ball-dominant superstar forward and a desire to find out if he could lead his own team — becomes awfully enlightening given Lloyd’s more recent reporting:
But there were ancillary issues that bothered Irving, too, such as how James’ good friend Randy Mims had a position on the Cavs’ staff and traveled on the team plane while none of Irving’s close friends were afforded the same opportunity.
It’s important to reinforce the idea that the reported exchange between Drederick and Mims, if it played any role in the feud between LeBron and Kyrie, was only one of many factors at play — most of which were basketball-related. Both James and Mims declined comment when Lloyd questioned them about the incident, and Kyrie remained vague when approached about it by The Athletic reporter: “I could care less. You can write it. It’s on you, kid. It’s your validity, baby. It’s just my dad. It’s not me.”
Irving has an especially close relationship with his father, who raised him and his sister after Kyrie’s mother died when he was 4 years old, and The Undefeated’s Jesse Washington recently detailed how that bond may have indirectly forged a divide between the two former teammates. Now, Lloyd’s report suggests Kyrie’s close connection with Drederick may have had a more tangible effect on the split.
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