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LeBron James to Cleveland? Why?

I HAVE MIXED emotions about LeBron James’s return to Cleveland.

On the one hand, I’m glad the brother got the chance to go back in an attempt to deliver a championship to the place where he grew up.  On the other hand, I’m disappointed that he didn’t publicly take Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to task for the infamous open letter in which Gilbert insulted LeBron James in every way possible.

[blocktext align=”right”] Gilbert called LeBron James’s decision to leave a “cowardly betrayal.” He said the “self-declared former ‘King’ will be taking the ‘curse’ with him down south.” He said Cleveland would win a championship before James … None of it was true.[/blocktext]

Gilbert’s letter was posted on the Cleveland Cavaliers website in 2010, when LeBron James made the announcement that he was signing with Miami. In that letter, Gilbert called LeBron James’s decision to leave a “cowardly betrayal.” He said the “self-declared former ‘King’ will be taking the ‘curse’ with him down south.” He said Cleveland would win a championship before James, and called James’s announcement of his decision a “narcissistic, self-promotional build-up … unlike anything ever ‘witnessed’ in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.”

None of those things was true.

Well, maybe one thing was true–the part where Gilbert intimated that basketball is entertainment. In spite of that astute recognition, Gilbert tried to pretend that basketball is more than that. Perhaps that’s why he kept the letter on the Cavaliers website for four years, and along the way, attempted to destroy LeBron James’s reputation.

I would never return to Cleveland to play for Dan Gilbert after that, but apparently, LeBron James can forgive an awful lot.

I’m not just talking about Gilbert’s deluded attempt to put a curse on LeBron James—a man who won two championships with Miami while Cleveland won none. I’m talking about Gilbert’s apparent dishonesty in this whole sorry mess.

Sorry … well, sort of

When Gilbert wrote the letter, he said he had no regrets. According to CBSSports.com, Gilbert reiterated that he was not sorry in a February 2014 interview with Ohio.com.

But in a recent interview with Yahoo.com, Gilbert said: “For the first two months, I kept thousands of letters – not hundreds – thousands written to me … I realized that that letter had transcended the event, went far beyond LeBron. After a few months, I would re-read it and just be full of regret. That wasn’t me, that wasn’t who I am. I didn’t mean most of the things I said in there. The venom it produced, from all sides … I wish … I wish I had never done it.”

Well, um … Mr. Gilbert, if you wished you never wrote the letter, why would you keep it on your website for four years? And if you were sorry about the letter a couple months after you wrote it, why were you not sorry five months ago when you talked to Ohio.com? Finally, if you weren’t sorry five months ago, why were you sorry again when you realized James might be willing to come back.

It’s all nonsense, and I would be leery of working for someone who is that dishonest about his actions.

Forgive and forget

I understand that James and Gilbert have talked it out, and that’s nice. I hope it works out in the end. But my most important hope in all of this is that Dan Gilbert comes to understand that while he can own an NBA team, he does not own the people who play on the team.

[blocktext align=”left”]LeBron James is not a slave. He is a professional who happens to make his living playing basketball, and while I hope Dan Gilbert comes to recognize the difference, I’m not optimistic that he will.[/blocktext]

LeBron James is not a slave. He is a professional who happens to make his living playing basketball, and while I hope Dan Gilbert comes to recognize the difference, I’m not optimistic that he will.

Anyone who is delusional enough to try to put a curse on an employee for pursuing a better opportunity isn’t a guy I’d trust to think rationally. For LeBron’s sake, I hope I’m wrong about Dan Gilbert, because if I’m not, LeBron James will be returning to the same old Cleveland.

I still remember Cleveland as a place where it often seemed that James was the only player on the court. I remember Cleveland as an organization did a piss poor job of surrounding James with the talent they needed to win the championship they claimed they wanted. I remember the Cavaliers as a team that was a reflection of Dan Gilbert.

I’m glad LeBron James wants to go back to win a championship for his hometown. I’m glad he’s concerned about the kids who look up to him. He is clearly the grownup in all this, and in my estimation, he has carried himself with the kind of dignity and class that is rarely seen in today’s athletics.

Maybe when he goes back to Cleveland, LeBron could teach Dan Gilbert a thing or two about class.

Gilbert could sure use the help. sj favicon 3

Click here to read Dan Gilbert’s letter to LeBron James


solomon thumbnailSolomon Jones is an Essence bestselling author and award-winning columnist. He is the creator and editor of Solomonjones.com. Click here to learn more about Solomon

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[…] Click here to read Solomon Jones’s column: LeBron to Cleveland? Why? […]

Kevin Ghee

I agree that it would have been difficult for me to return. The idea of a team being able to trade a player, fan favorite or not, to no vitriol laced responses but a player making the choice to leave something even remotely juxtaposed to something of a coward is asinine. Now this is Lebron’s life as well as choice so I have no commentary on what he should or shouldn’t do but if it was me, I would over charge Dan and get a piece of the team. That’s the only way it makes sense to me.

Solomon Jones

I wonder if LeBron will make his money from being the man who was big enough to forgive everything and go home again. Will he suddenly become as popular as he was unpopular? He could if the narrative around him becomes something like this: “LeBron was the athlete who ignored money and followed his heart. He sacrificed himself for the people who loved him, the people who shaped him, the people who made him who he is. LeBron understood that there is more to success than money, and he went back to Cleveland to prove it.”

If that becomes the narrative then he instantly becomes the guy on every magazine cover, on every Wheaties box, and in every television ad. He becomes America’s hero, and he makes more money from that than he makes from playing for the Cavaliers. Maybe LeBron is shrewd enough to understand that, but even if that’s the case, I don’t know if I could have gone back to play for Gilbert. Not after he showed himself to be so immature and petty as to resort to nursery school name calling because he couldn’t get his way.