When he describes his reaction to Wade's leaving, it's always in terms of how sad it makes him feel, and while his emotions toward James' return to Cleveland were primal in the months, and even years, afterward, now he understands why LeBron had to leave.
"He went home because he had to go home," he says. "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."
But of course, Riley says, almost immediately after LeBron left, Bosh's camp wanted to reopen a deal they'd just finished, knowing the Heat had money and felt vulnerable. Bosh threatened to sign with the Rockets. In the end, Riley gave Bosh what he wanted. Now he wishes he'd said no to Bosh's max deal and given all that money to Wade. (James and Bosh declined to comment for this story. Wade issued a statement thanking Riley for their years together.)
"You never think it's gonna end," Riley says. "Then it always ends."
It's very easy to say this now, especially after Wade left for Chicago last offseason, and Bosh's NBA career looks to be over due to health-related issues involving continued blood clotting. Obviously Riley had a very close relationship with Wade, so there is the personal aspect, but I wonder how he would look at the situation if Bosh was still giving the Heat 20 points and 7 rebounds a night, and they were a playoff team.
Plus, if he truly wanted to pay Wade so badly, he could have given him the money he was looking for last offseason, instead of letting him walk.
According to Wade, Riley never even reached out to him during the process,which is one of the reasons he left town.
The week before the All-Star break, Dwyane Wade appears on Yahoo's popular basketball podcast. For the first time, he says a driving reason for his departure from Miami was hurt feelings over Riley never calling him. Wade says Riley didn't reach out, and Dwyane felt he deserved respect after helping deliver three titles.
Riley, however, claims that Wade's agents only wanted to talk to the owners, so he respected their wishes. Clearly it was a complicated situation, but with the power Riley wields in Miami, if he wanted Wade to stick around that badly, he could have made sure that happened.