Let us take you back to a simpler time from not long ago when LeBron James left Cleveland's, uh, abandoned warehouses to take his talents to the sunny shores of South Beach. Not long after he did that, as you likely recall, Cavs team owner Dan Gilbert got national attention for writing a public letter to LeBron, excoriating him for leaving the only city he had ever played pro hoops for.
Now, almost seven years later, things have been patched up between LeBron and Gilbert, which is the type of thing that can happen after the home-state star returns to town and leads the Cavs to their first NBA title in the history of the franchise.
Turns out winning has a way of healing all wounds. Oh, and it also turns out Gilbert wasn't the only front office type who had that idea run through his head.
We say that because, according to a story that was released on ESPN on Tuesday, Pat Riley had similar feelings after LeBron spurned the Heat to return to Cleveland in 2014.
Apparently Riley felt that negotiations between LeBron and Miami's brass were disingenuous. Riley and his staff reportedly flew to Las Vegas to put on a big presentation and (while there) said that LeBron and his...staff(?) were distracted by a World Cup game that was on a nearby TV.
Here's how ESPN put it:
Riley told his lieutenant, Andy Elisburg, to get the two championship trophies LeBron had won and pack them in their hard-shell carrying cases. Elisburg also brought charts and an easel for a presentation about the free agents the Heat would pursue. The day of the meeting, a hotel bellhop followed them with a luggage cart carrying the presentation and the two trophies. Riley brought wine from a Napa vineyard named Promise. It was the same label Maverick Carter had presented Riley with when they did the deal four years earlier. Riley respects Carter, and when he walked into the suite and saw James with agent Rich Paul and friend Randy Mims but no Maverick, part of him knew the meeting wasn't sincere. He told Elisburg to keep the trophies and easel in the hall. James and his associates were watching a World Cup game, which they kept glancing at during the presentation. At one point, Riley asked if they'd mute the TV.
After the presentation, Riley says Paul called before handing the phone to LeBron, where the then free agent started by saying the dreaded "I want to thank you for four years..." Riley revealed his mindset afterward saying, among other things, "I was very angry when LeBron left. It was personal for me. It just was."
He also revealed that he was so pissed off that he almost penned a letter just like Dan Gilbert, before a friend talked him out of it. Seems like a minor to major (depends on how light a news day that was) PR disaster was averted by that unnamed friend. Well done.