Pat Riley nearly wrote Dan Gilbert-like letter upon LeBron James’ departure
Miami Heat president Pat Riley almost made a huge mistake in July of 2014 upon hearing the news that LeBron James was leaving the organization to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. And it involved wisely not writing an angry letter about the situation, much like Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert famously did when James took his talents to South Beach four years earlier.
Riley, in an expansive profile for ESPN The Magazine, tells Wright Thompson how he narrowly avoided following into the same embarrassing trap as Gilbert.
Riley recalled how he felt during and in the immediate aftermath of a phone call when James informed him of the decision.
Riley flew home worried and got a text telling him to be ready for a call. About 15 minutes later, his phone rang and [Rich] Paul was on the other end. The agent handed the phone to LeBron, who started by saying, “I want to thank you for four years …”
“I was silent,” Riley says. “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.”
Interestingly, Riley utilized an odd text message to a media member to react to Dwyane Wade’s departure for the Chicago Bulls last offseason.
Gilbert was widely ridiculed for the knee-jerk reaction to James’ departure, in which the owner posted a lengthy and bitter screed on the team’s official website — in Comic Sans font, no less — which was highlighted by the following passage:
“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE.”
Gilbert and James have long since patched things up in their once-broken relationship, obviously.
Riley, on the other hand and perhaps not surprisingly, nevertheless continued to harbor bitterness over James’ departure well after it occurred. James never seemed too bothered by it, though.