Is Riley right to be upset with LeBron?

In this May 5, 2013 photo, Miami Heat NBA basketball player LeBron James, center, poses with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, left, and team president Pat Riley after winning the NBA Most Valuable Player award, in Miami. Before James makes his next decision, Riley will get a chance to convince him to stay in Miami. Two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press late Sunday night, July 6, 2014, that James will meet with the Heat president this week before making a decision about where to play next season. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Pat Riley revealed he was unhappy with the way LeBron James left Miami. Should Riley be angry with LeBron?

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The story:

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.”)


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. 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.”

Kelly Dwyer from Yahoo Sports:

It was James’ time to do it. Though the Cavaliers looked a blank slate in comparison to the Miami Heat’s settled stararchy in the summer of 2014, the team still had provocative options in young point guard Kyrie Irving, and two No. 1 overall picks as trade bait to play with. Two Finals trips and a championship later, LeBron’s basketball decision has long ago been assured as sensible. Most did even that summer, noting the age of Heat stars (and free agents) Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but this didn’t deter Riley from signing the then-32 year-old Wade (at two years, $34 million with a player option) and just-turned 30 Bosh (five years, $118 million) to ignite the turnaround. Bosh fell later that (All-Star) year due to blood clots, a condition that has put his basketball career on hold. Wade turned in two All-Star seasons in James’ absence, with one playoff trip, before leaving as a free agent in 2016 after some contract turmoil of his own with the Heat.

Joy Taylor from Fox Sports:

The reality is he wanted more control over the organization he played for. He wanted an environment where he called all the shots, had a say over front office, personnel and coaching decisions, and most importantly, an environment where his intentions weren’t constantly being called into question. Who can blame him? He’s underpaid and by far the best player in the league. The issue is: should a team turn the organization over to a player? You run the risk of him making emotional decisions, not understanding the cap, leaving again and putting the team in a hole. This is the risk Pat Riley took by not bending to LeBron’s every will, something that he didn’t have as much flexibility to do based on the decisions that had been made in building the championship rosters of the prior seasons. It’s hard to fault Riley for that. Despite the greatness of LeBron, the idea of him taking control of one of the most consistent and well run programs in the league would have made me uncomfortable. It’s all a moot point now, as LeBron prepares to lead the Cavs into the playoffs to defend their title. But it’s fun to imagine where the Heat would be now if he had stayed.

What do the fans think?:

What do you think? Should Riley be angry with LeBron?

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