LeBron James played with Kyrie Irving on the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2014 through 2017. In their three seasons as teammates, Cleveland reached the NBA Finals three times. The pair won the 2016 championship together, and were it not for Irving's injury in 2015 and a once-in-a-lifetime cap spike allowing Kevin Durant to join the Golden State Warriors in time for the 2017 series, they easily could have won three consecutive titles together. While both have enjoyed individual success since separating, neither has won nearly as consistently without the other.

James has, on a number of occasions, come close to reuniting with Irving. The Los Angeles Lakers have pursued him several times. Last summer, Irving reportedly wanted James to join him with the Dallas Mavericks. Those deals never materialized, and now Irving is set to play in the NBA Finals as a member of the Mavericks. James is enjoying watching his former teammate flourish, but at the same time, he won't deny how much he misses playing with his former protege.

"There was nothing on the basketball floor that Kyrie couldn't do," James explained on his Mind the Game podcast with JJ Redick. "And sitting here watching it, I'm like, I'm playing like, so f---ing happy and so proud to watch him continue his growth and whatever the case may be, and at the same time, I am so f---ing mad at the same time that I am not his running mate anymore."

James said he was "disappointed" when the Lakers failed to land Irving at the 2023 deadline, and it's not hard to see why. The Lakers have spent virtually the entire James era looking for a long-term point guard to do for James what Irving once did. They've failed on smaller additions like Dennis Schroder and D'Angelo Russell. They've failed with bigger ones like Russell Westbrook. No guard aside from Dwyane Wade has ever paired more perfectly with James. Irving eased the scoring burden on his former running mate, and James ensured that he wouldn't have to focus as much on the playmaking that has never come quite as easily to him. That's one of the few things that doesn't come naturally to Irving because, according to James, his former point guard is "the most gifted player" in NBA history.

"I have so many words to praise Kyrie that I end up with absolutely none, because it's just, it's so, he's the most gifted player the NBA has ever seen," James said. "He has the best gifts I've ever seen of any NBA player. I've never seen a guy in my NBA life that feels better at times shooting with his off-hand than he does with his primary hand. If Kyrie's off in a game with his right hand, he will literally go exclusively to his left hand. I've never seen nothing like that."

That is high praise coming from anyone, but especially James, who himself is routinely considered the most physically gifted player in NBA history. Those two notions can coexist. James has physical tools no NBA player has ever had, but Irving has a combination of skills and moves on the ball that have never been matched. Together, the two formed one of the most potent offensive duos the league will ever see. It only lasted three years, but if James had his way, it would have lasted a whole lot longer.