Did Kobe Bryant influence Kyrie Irving's wish to leave LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers? Sports journalist Jason Whitlock certainly believes so. On Fox Sports' Speak For Yourself, Whitlock went on to say that he believed Kobe "manipulated" Irving and convinced him it was time to lead a team of his own. Kyrie is now a Boston Celtics player.

Irving and Kobe's game

Kyrie Irving's affection for Kobe Bryant is well known. Firstly, Irving idolized Kobe. Today, the two share a relationship that allows Irving to grasp as much knowledge from Kobe as possible.

The two also share a similar style of basketball. They own a 'killer's' mentality that pushes them to be always on attack-mode and have no mercy for the opponent. Crunch time is when they feel most comfortable. Kobe was clearly the best closer of the game during his era, and today Irving is one of the best clutch players in the NBA. Their offensive repertoire is also alike, as they both can handle the ball with ease, shoot impossible fadeaway jumpers with defenders hanging on them, and finish around the rim with either hand.

Irving & LeBron, Kobe & Shaq

Kobe also shared the floor with one of the most dominant players ever. Kobe and Shaquille O'Neal formed one of the best duos to ever play the game.

Although Shaq won three NBA Finals MVP during their three-peat, Kobe's value on that Los Angeles Lakers' team was equal to that of Shaq. The two clashed in many occasions but pushed each other to become better players at the end of the day. The two ultimately reached a point of no return, and Kobe had to force management to choose between the two.

Kobe was ready to move on from Shaq and prove he could win without him. Shaq was gone and Kobe went on to win two more championships.

Irving has lived his own soap-opera with LeBron James. Unlike Kobe, Irving was evidently a side-kick to LeBron. James dominated the play of the team, and Irving focused on being the team's closer.

LeBron is also the acting-general manager of the Cavaliers in a way. His agent represents most of the team, and LeBron's uncertain future always has an effect on management's decisions. Kyrie was never going to be able to fully flourish and be in control while playing alongside LeBron.

But while Kobe played the better hand and convinced Lakers' ownership to keep him, Irving had no option but to leave. Kobe also asked for a trade, but his strategy all along was to pressure the Lakers' front office to recognize his greater value and decide to part ways with Shaq. Irving asked for a trade with the true intent to start from scratch and become the face of another franchise. LeBron has one more year left in his contract with the Cavs, and Kyrie was not willing to partake in the LeBron-soap opera for another year.

Why would Kobe advise Irving to leave LeBron?

Whitlock believes Kobe wanted to debilitate LeBron. Whitlock said that Bryant's ego is still working and wants to be considered a better all-time player than James. Kobe has five NBA championships, LeBron three. The two are always mentioned among the all-time top ten NBA players. LeBron did not hold his end of the deal in 2009 and 2010 when Kobe reached the Finals and the dominant Cavs were supposed to meet them there. NBA fans and pundits are now left with debates about who is better.

But Bryant has always been a reserved personality. He has previously said that he is happy to provide advice to singular basketball players who strive for greatness and ask him for help.

Irving has stated in several occasions how Kobe has helped him develop that 'killer's' mentality. Kobe himself looked to learn from NBA legends during his illustrious career. However, it is difficult to imagine Kobe meddling in other people's affairs and decisions, Kobe had very few close friends in the league. Bryant is now fully immersed in his company Kobe Inc.

Here is what Kobe had to say about such speculations in a tweet over a month ago: "I'm building @DrinkBODYARMOR @BryantStibel and a Media company but get asked if I'm influencing @KyrieIrving #mambaout."