When LeBron James left Cleveland for Miami nearly four years ago, emotions were obviously running pretty high. A lot of things that probably shouldn’t have been said were said. Media, fans, LeBron — it wasn’t handled all that well by anyone.
But let’s make one thing clear: no one handled himself as poorly as Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.
Here’s a refresher on some of the more pointed comments Gilbert made in an open letter (that was written, quite famously, in Comic Sans font) to fans following LeBron’s departure:
You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.
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.
I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our “motivation” to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.
Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.
The self-declared former “King” will be taking the “curse” with him down south. And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma. Just watch.
So, obviously, Gilbert was wrong. He behaved like a petulant child that just lost “his” toy, and he threw a temper tantrum in an idiotic and completely regrettable letter where nothing he said came true.
Of course, someone capable of making comments like that in the first place probably isn’t capable of showing humility, apologizing, or even saying he regrets what he said. Here’s what Gilbert told Jason Lloyd of the Beacon Journal when he was asked if he regretted “The Letter”:
I would’ve reworded the language in The Letter, but I don’t regret sending a letter out to our fan base. People forget the letter was not to LeBron, it was to our fan base. If I had to do it again, for sure, I would’ve reworded several parts of it. But I think it definitely needed a strong statement from me at that time. I keep a couple binders on my desk and I have a binder of the responses to The Letter from the people of Cleveland. For some reason, it appealed to this generational Cleveland thing. If you want to talk about books, someone should publish all the responses to The Letter. It was like, ‘We’re from Cleveland and we’ve been rejected.”
The Cavs will have max cap space this season. LeBron James could enter free agency. Not that I think LeBron is basing the future of his career on things Gilbert says in interviews, but wouldn’t fully apologizing when given the opportunity at least help a tiny smidge? Is there any scenario where Gilbert admitting what we all know to be true wouldn’t be better than him saying they should make a book based on the responses to his embarrassing letter?
The damage has already been done, of course, but Gilbert doesn’t get enough blame for slamming the door shut on a potential return. If he had just behaved like a rational adult, perhaps it would be possible (or even likely) at some point that LeBron would play for the Cavs once again.
Instead, Gilbert continues to be oblivious at best and delusional at worst. When asked by Lloyd if his letter had a negative impact on the organization over the last four years, Gilbert used third person to make his point, because of course he did:
You never know for sure, but I haven’t felt it or been aware of it. People said nobody would come here, that’s not true. Do I think any players are going to not come here because Dan wrote a letter three or four years ago? I don’t think so.
Maybe he’s right. Non-LeBron free agents might not care about the actual letter, but that’s missing the forest for the trees.
Free agents, at least guys better than Jarrett Jack, might not come to Cleveland because the owner’s ego clouds any rational judgment. Cleveland was supposed to win a title before LeBron. That was wrong. Cleveland was supposed to “not come back” to the lottery. That looks like it will be wrong, too.
Bottom line, Gilbert lets his mouth write checks that his brain can’t cash. That’s a problem if you’re picking your employer.
If Gilbert doesn’t care about the impact his words have on the organization, maybe this will get through instead. Stop talking, Dan — for your own sake.