Pat Riley admits he almost pulled a Dan Gilbert after LeBron James left Miami Heat

An interesting note was revealed in a recent ESPN feature about Pat Riley. It covers the time after LeBron James decided to leave the Miami Heat to go back home and rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers three years ago. Riley was upset and he apparently felt the negotiations beforehand were not genuine. Riley and his team flew to Las Vegas to meet with LeBron and his camp. Riley claims James and his team spent most of the time distracted by a World Cup game on the TV. 

Afterward, Riley said he was "very angry," and apparently almost pulled a Dan Gilbert. (That, of course, is a reference to the Cavs owner writing a letter -- in Comic Sans! -- to the city of Cleveland after LeBron left for Miami, in which he called the move a "cowardly betrayal.") Via ESPN:

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.

Riley flew home worried and got a text telling him to be ready for a call. About 15 minutes later, his phone rang and 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."

God bless Pat Riley's friend, because yes, he should be very glad he didn't do something like that. 

No one -- not Riley, not the Heat organization, and certainly not LeBron -- needed another angry screed at a player for doing what was best for himself. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

Our Latest Stories