With rampant speculation about LeBron James‘ future flooding message boards and Twitter since he opted out of his deal with the Heat last month, no one knew of today’s announcement before Sports Illustrated published LeBron’s return-to-Cleveland missive — with an assist from Lee Jenkins — for all the world to see. Neither the Heat or Cavs knew his decision until they saw it online, which is exactly how James wanted it after the PR debacle surrounding his 2010 Decision. Before all that transpired today, James actually met with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert where both finally cleared the air, Yahoo reports.
LeBron and his team kept the NBA’s biggest secret close to the vest until the very last moment, but he had already made overtures pointing towards the direction of his second lower-case decision.
After the LeBron news broke, we found out James — along with his agent, Rich Paul, and confidante/manager Maverick Carter — had met from Cavs owner Dan Gilbert for four hours in Miami on Sunday to talk through everything that transpired in 2010. Gilbert famously wrote a scathing takedown of LeBron — in Comic Sans, no less — that has haunted him since. James’ own lack of judgement in televising the announcement was also noted as a mistake; both men apologized for their regrettable actions, reaffirming their desire to move on. It was a way of cleansing the palette for both James and Gilbert which led to James’ stunning announcement today:
LeBron James, Dan Gilbert, Rich Paul and Maverick Carter met for 4 hours in Miami last week and talked through it all, Gilbert tells Yahoo.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 11, 2014
Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo! Sports has more on how James and Gilbert healed their broken relationship:
For four years, the letter had come to define Dan Gilbert, and the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers wanted to wash away the shame and embarrassment and guilt of it all. So Sunday, Gilbert sat down with LeBron James and his inner-circle and tried to absolve himself of a most wretched moment in time.
“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.”
And soon, James told Gilbert that he wished he had never done “The Decision” on cable television and that they had made mistakes together, that they could move past it. From James and his agent Rich Paul and business manager Maverick Carter, the air of peace hung heavy in the South Florida air, the process of returning to Cleveland had begun in earnest. Soon, they had stopped talking about the past and talked about the possibility of a future together and for the first time – truly the first time – the possibility of reunification had become genuine.
Gilbert told Yahoo, “It was more comfortable than I actually thought it would be. They made it easy for me.”
Some, like ESPN’s J.A. Adande, feel James’ return to Cleveland might undermine the hurtful neglect inherent in Gilbert’s Comic Sans-letter in 2010. Adande and others also feel James’ return to Cleveland discounts the role Gilbert played in the NBA owners’ stubborn refusal to concede much of anything in their landmark CBA win during the 2011 lockout.
Still, James made it clear in his SI story he wasn’t returning to Cleveland for Dan Gilbert, and he wasn’t leaving Miami because of anything president Pat Riley or owner Micky Arison did; James just wanted to return home, confident after his four years, four trips to the Finals and two NBA Titles, of his ability to lead his hometown team to their own NBA Championship.
Step one in that process was Gilbert’s apology for the famous letter, and James’ own regret over the Decision itself. After that was completed this past Sunday, it paved the way for today’s announcement. No one knows what will happen from here, but at least we know the acrimony behind the 2010 announcement is in the past, and there’s a tabula rasa for the return of Cleveland’s Prodigal Son next season.
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