As soon as Cleveland exits the 2018 playoffs, the media focus will dramatically shift to another LeBron James free agency sweepstakes. Anything short of Cleveland winning the championship will probably result in James departing his hometown again and trying to hook up with some other All-Stars, in another city, to make his final championship runs favorably. There’s been speculation since last season about LeBron’s next destination.
@RobParkerFS1: LeBron to the Lakers would be a bigger mistake than leaving for Miami: https://t.co/oAlCj6kfhg
When LeBron left Miami, that departure also stung the city and changed the course of the franchise. It also tempered the excitement and awe concerning team president Pat Rileys legacy. Riley has 9 championships as a player, coach, and GM and he hasnt been close to adding another accolade to the mantle since LeBron left and admits it took him awhile to get over it.
It took Pat Riley a while to get over LeBron leaving Miami. (via @IanThomsen)
In a new book by Ian Thomsen called The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown between LeBron, Kobe, Doc and Dirk that Saved the NBA, Riley reveals details about his feelings about James decision as well as details of the early days of his union with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
In an article by ESPN published Monday morning revealing excerpts from the book that is to be released on April 17, Riley tells Thomsen:
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. I just finally came to accept the realization that he and his family said, Youll never, ever be accepted back in your hometown if you dont go back to try to win a title. Otherwise someday youll go back there and have the scarlet letter on your back. Youll be the greatest player in the history of mankind, but back there, nobodys really going to accept you.
Three years after James’ departure from the Miami Heat, Riley has made it clear he wasn’t happy with how things ended between the two parties.
In a profile by ESPN The Magazine’s Wright Thompson, Riley spoke about the phone call he received from James to inform the Heat president he was going back to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2014.
“I was silent,” Riley said. “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.”
Riley did everything he could to get LeBron to stay and when Bron didn’t, Riley wanted to throw shade on Bron, but he also didn’t want to blow his finesse like Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert did after LeBron bounced the first time. Nobody likes it when their model girlfriend walks out the door for an upgrade. Thats how it is for an owner or GM when Bron goes elsewhere. It diminishes your entire reputation. The GMs and coaches who are considered superior geniuses when Bron is running the show on the court become overnight mediocrities without him. They are often stuck as Riley is, waiting for young stars to emerge.
Riley did express some public disappointment with LeBrons decision and the way things transpired with James during the summer of 2014.
He told B/R’s Ethan Skolnick in March 2015 that what James “had here [in Miami], and what he had developed here, and what he could have developed over the next five or six years here, with the same team, could have been historic.”
In the book, however, Riley finally broke his cool and reveals how he felt inside about “The Decision.”
I had two to three days of tremendous anger. I was absolutely livid, which I expressed to myself and my closest friends. Then, Thomsen wrote, over the weeks and months to come, Riley came to see the move to Cleveland from LeBrons point of view. 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 [LeBrons] life.
King James is the master of the juke and the multi-message sentence. Its shocking that two guys with egos so big in Riley and James could even survive in Miami long enough to make four appearances in the NBA Finals, winning titles in 2012 and 2013. In many ways, they were a perfect fit. In fact, Riley probably thought he won those two MVPs for LeBron, the same way Dan Gilbert felt the cash cow that was LeBron James would never leave his hometown. Guys that are used to having the leverage don’t like it when a player changes the game on them. Bron is a master at that. Hes proficient at staying ahead of the game.
Congratulations LeBron James who has become the youngest player in NBA history to score 30,000 points! https://t.co/z3NZMjraGa
This season, Kyrie’s departure caught him off guard and didn’t leave much time to have a Plan B. Guaranteed Bron doesn’t allow that to happen to him again.
So, while the world speculates on his next destination, LeBron is undoubtedly already putting the pieces together. With Kyrie bouncing to the Celtics and the drama the Cavs organization has experienced from the executive levels to the players on the court, things have gotten a bit out of control. The only thing constant is LeBron’s play and his refusal to commit to Cleveland past this season.