Posts Tagged ‘The Decision’

Miami Heat president Pat Riley has changed his tune.

An introspective Riley told Ian Thomsen in the latter’s upcoming book, “The Soul of Basketball,” that LeBron James made the right call by choosing to return to Cleveland after his memorable four-year tour – which included two championships – through South Beach.

“While there may have been some carnage always left behind when he made these kinds of moves, in Cleveland and also in Miami, he did the right thing,” Riley told Thomsen, as relayed by ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan.

“I just finally came to accept the realization that he and his family said, ‘You’ll never, ever be accepted back in your hometown if you don’t go back to try to win a title. Otherwise someday you’ll go back there and have the scarlet letter on your back. You’ll be the greatest player in the history of mankind, but back there, nobody’s really going to accept you.'”

Having said that, Riley also admitted that he was initially furious when James ditched a dynastic team in Miami to start over in Cleveland.

“I had two to three days of tremendous anger. I was absolutely livid, which I expressed to myself and my closest friends,” Riley said. “My beautiful plan all of a sudden came crashing down. That team in ten years could have won five or six championships. But I get it. I get the whole chronicle of his life.”

Advertisements

1404787117000-c04-fa-lopo-22-49619071

The Miami Heat, while under the watchful eye of Pat Riley, have always been lauded as a top-flight organization that operates with the utmost class.

But the departure of LeBron James in 2014 put all of Riley’s patience to the test. When James ditched South Beach for a happy homecoming, the Heat president had to be restrained from unleashing a letter similar to the one Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert did when The King signed with Miami.

“I was silent,” Riley recalled of James’ departure in a brilliant tell-all interview with ESPN’s Wright Thompson. “I didn’t say anything. My mind began to just go. And it was over. I was very angry when LeBron left”.

“It was personal for me. It just was. I had a very good friend who talked me off the ledge and kept me from going out there and saying something like Dan Gilbert. I’m glad I didn’t do it.”

Gilbert’s rage-induced comic sans-font letter released in the wake of “The Decision” remains a source of constant ridicule. It exposed the unbalanced power structure in sports, wherein a player exercising his free agency was met with fury and resentment over what was owed in terms of loyalty and sacrifice. Evidently, that episode nearly repeated itself in the case of Riley.

With three years gone by, Riley now understands why James left his side. It’s his conclusion that James went home to clear the “scarlet letter” off his back, as if doing so was his responsibility and not Gilbert’s.

“He went home because he had to go home,” Riley said. “It was time. It was really time for him to go home, in his prime. If he’s ever gonna do anything in Akron again, this was the time to do it. Otherwise, he’d have had a scarlet letter on his back the rest of his whole life.”