Something that often gets overlooked as super teams form is how tough the sacrifice can be on the second-best player, especially when the best player is an all-timer.
Scottie Pippen is underrated for playing alongside Michael Jordan.
Detractors say Kobe Bryant rode on Shaquille O’Neal’s shoulders to his first three rings.
Kyrie Irving’s game gets hyper-analyzed as LeBron James tends to get all the accolades.
On one hand, the team success should be enough to convince guys like Pippen, Bryant and Irving that playing alongside their greater counterpart is and will be the right thing to continue to do.
On the other, endlessly catching blame when the team fails only to watch the praise land elsewhere in successes would wear on anyone.
Jordan and Pippen made it work to the tune of six titles. It’s hard to say the three championships Shaq and Kobe won together were some kind of failure, but many (those two included) would say they left something on the table.
Irving wants to avoid that at all costs, as he said to ESPN’ Dave McNenamin.
"It's a tough balance. Because everyone knows, Shaq was really dominant and (had) a lot of the individual accolades ... unbelievable. And that's who he was. And Kobe was just consistently working on his game and consistently trying to prove everyone all the time. And you got to commend somebody for that.
"That just shows the true testament of their will and what they're willing to do and what they're willing to sacrifice, but I know I don't want to look back and say that I let my selfishness get in the way of us winning championships, because we have unbelievable talent on this team and unbelievable players, and so I don't want to ever take that for granted."
This is some pretty mature stuff from Irving, who is somehow only 25 years old.
Most would say that playing alongside LeBron would be the easiest job in the world, but do so by ignoring the human element of competition. The fact that Irving sought out Kobe to avoid the mistakes the led to Shaq getting traded to Miami shows that Irving is in the for the long haul.
Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to try to figure out a way for Kobe to give himself this advice so that he and Shaq could rip off a few more titles.