Four years ago it was unimaginable to think that one of basketball’s most celebrated players (Lebron James) would ever return to Cleveland let alone rejoin his former team the Cavaliers after leaving them to play for Miami. Team owner Dan Gilbert’s now infamous open letter to James seemed to forever seal the deal of no Cleveland homecoming for James. Here are a few excerpts of that now regretted letter by Gilbert:
Dear Cleveland, All Of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Cavaliers Supporters Wherever You May Be Tonight; As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier.
This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his “decision” unlike anything ever “witnessed” in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment. Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us.
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. And “who” we would want them to grow-up to become.
But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called “curse” on Cleveland, Ohio. 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.
To fully grasp the anger Gilbert is directing towards Lebron, it must be noted that many in Ohio and Gilbert felt like they built James into the basket ball phenom he is currently. By providing the NBA platform with the Cavaliers and supporting his career as he grew to that point, made people feel entitled to James career in ways more fitting of property than a fellow human being. However the way in which James departed with his also now infamous live on the air “Decision Countdown” fueled some of the hurt we see in Gilbert’s letter and heard from sports’ fans.
The backlash that Gilbert’s letter created was bigger and lasted longer than intended. Even now four years later, Gilbert is still trying to make amends for things said as well as implied in that letter. It’s no secret that Lebron took great offense to things said in Gilbert’s note, however 4 years and two championships later, we see that time and winning may just heal all wounds.
It’s also note worthy to look at the economics of what Lebron’s return to Cleveland means for that local economy. According to one report, Lebrons return will bring hundreds of millions:
Based on calculations by the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Office, James’s return will increase the benefit from Cavs games alone to about $268 million. Average attendance increased from about 12,000 before James joined the team to about 20,500 during his final season, the county said. Although attendance has slipped, officials expect sold out games next season with James on the court. (Bloomberg.com)
When asked about how he is dealing with the letter and the some of the harsh reactions from Cleveland fans, Lebron had this to say:
To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I’ve met with Dan, face-to- face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge? (CBS Sports)
Dan Gilbert shared what he said to Lebron to communicate how sincerely he wanted “The King” to return and forgive him for that letter:
“We had five great years together and one terrible night,” Gilbert told James, and so started the process of reconciliation on Sunday night in Miami. “I told him how sorry I was, expressed regret for how that night went and how I let all the emotion and passion for the situation carry me away. I told him I wish I had never done it, that I wish I could take it back.” (yahoo sports)
It seems that the moral of our story here is that everyone loves a winner. And if Lebron is able to lead Cleveland to it’s first NBA championship with a back story like the one he has, the it will truly be the Return of the King.