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LeBron James on how he was able to forgive Cavs owner Dan Gilbert: ‘I’m a man’

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When LeBron James was weighing this past offseason whether or not he would spurn the Miami Heat and opt to return to play for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, there was something of an elephant in the room as he pondered his future.

And that elephant’s name was Dan Gilbert.

When James uttered those now-infamous words, “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach” during the farce that came to be known as “The Decision” to declare he was turning his back on the Cavaliers to head for sunnier climes and the win-now-ready roster of the Miami Heat, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert suffered what arguably only can be referred to as a very over-the-top, unhinged meltdown.

Gilbert put James on blast for spurning the Cavaliers, writing an unintentionally comical open letter to Cavs fans (see here), scathingly making note of what he deemed as LeBron’s “cowardly betrayal.”

It was pretty vitriolic stuff, the kind of words that are hard to take back. But somehow, the seemingly irreparable rift that existed between Gilbert and James obviously was somehow repaired to such an extent where LeBron felt comfortable returning to the Cavaliers.

When James ultimately chose to come home, Gilbert gave his side of the story regarding how the two were able to mend fences.

On Wednesday, it was LeBron’s turn to provide his interpretation of how he and Gilbert arrived at a reconciliation.

The prevailing question is of course: How was LeBron able to forgive Gilbert for his very public condemnation?

“How did I forgive? I’m a man,” James said — and he’s not even 40 — via an ESPN.com report. “Men, we all make mistakes.”

James continued.

“As a man, if you got a problem with somebody, you sit down face to face and you talk to them eye to eye. And you hash it out and move on,” he said. “So, I think a lot of things that go on in life or in sports with people kind of holding grudges is because they’re afraid to actually take a step forward. It’s a fine line between pride and progress, and I’m on the progress side. I’m not on the pride side.”

When James formally announced his intent to return to the Cavaliers in an essay published in July on SI.com, he acknowledged the hurt, specifically to his family, caused by Gilbert’s stinging, scathing and hostile commentary.

“To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough,” James wrote in the piece co-written by Lee Jenkins. “The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, ‘OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.’ But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?”

But as James insinuates with his comments this week, it takes a far bigger man to forgive and forget than to obsess and remain embittered over past transgressions. And it’s not like James didn’t make mistakes of his own, either, with how he went about moving on, of course beginning and ending with “The Decision,” an ill-conceived sideshow that essentially rubbed Cavaliers fans’ noses in his announcement.

But that’s all in rear-view mirror now. With the reconciliation complete, there’s nothing both Gilbert and James would like more than to move on from the past and celebrate LeBron’s triumphant return by treating the long-suffering Cleveland fans to a few NBA titles.

Wisely, LeBron abstained from any “Not one, not two” talk this time. Lesson learned, obviously.

(photo credit: USATSI)