This time, like the last time, LeBron drags out the decision. But it’s the enormous ego of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, not that of the best basketball player on the planet, that prolongs the drama. “If it wasn’t for that letter,” a source tells ESPN’s Chris Broussard, “this would’ve been done awhile ago.”
In other words, if Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert would simply man up and apologize, the worst team in the NBA over the last four seasons would enjoy the services of the league’s best player. But it’s not about Dan Gilbert’s team. It’s about Dan Gilbert’s ego.
Four years ago, when LeBron James opted for Miami over Cleveland in free agency, and unnecessarily dramatized the “decision” in an ESPN special, Gilbert one-upped LBJ by issuing a classless public slam. The reverse “Dear John” letter aimed its venom at LeBron but boomeranged back on its writer.
The owner called his departed player’s move “narcissistic,” “heartless,” and “callous.” The sore-loser missive labeled LeBron’s decision to play for a team that gave him a better shot at winning a “cowardly betrayal.” Then Gilbert depicted James, a man who has consistently put team before payday, as a corrupter of youth. “This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown ‘chosen one’ sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn,” Gilbert told Cavs fans. “And ‘who’ we would want them to grow-up to become.”
But it’s the promises more than the putdowns that make a fool out of Gilbert most in hindsight. Quoting himself, and in all-caps, Gilbert issued a guarantee: “I want to make one statement to you tonight: ‘I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE.’ You can take it to the bank.”
LeBron James won two NBA championships and two MVP awards since leaving Cleveland in 2010. He played in the NBA Finals every season in Miami. In the four seasons after his departure from Cleveland, just like the four seasons before his arrival, the Cavaliers didn’t make the playoffs. The Cavaliers have not finished above .500, or better than tenth place in the Eastern Conference, since LeBron left. They boast a pathetic record of 97-215.
Dan Gilbert owes an apology, and not just to the best player ever to put on a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform. Before he gets on his knees and begs LeBron James to come back to Cleveland, the Cavaliers owner should apologize to his franchise’s fans for promising trophies but delivering terrible.