By Dennis J. Freeman
Reading the words of Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert’s letter to fans about LeBron James after the two-time NBA MVP took his talents to the Miami Heat, is like reading a teenager sending a text message tantrum. It was disgraceful for the owner of a professional sports franchise to act like he did and continues to do.
Look, what James did in making his decision to leave the state of Ohio for greener pastures in the state of Florida, was nothing different from what sports franchises do all the time with athletes: they move on. When Gilbert and other sports owners discard athletes as if they were a set of poker chips, sports writers, experts and Joe Watercooler, consider those options as business decisions.
Saying that James treated the city of Cleveland with “cowardly betrayal” is a joke in itself. James doesn’t owe Gilbert, the city of Cleveland and the state of Ohio anything. What James did was like Gilbert and other shrewd business folks do all the time: he simply made a business decision, whether people like it or not.
Sure, what James did was not a popular choice. But we do live in America. And the last time I checked, Americans have the liberty to make choices. Gilbert, this isn’t slavery anymore. So stop sounding like some plantation owner whose slave left to work for a better master.
If James shut out the upper management brass of the Cavaliers to make his decision then what are we to make of that relationship? It seems to me there must already have been some bad blood between the two camps.
I’m not really a big fan of James as a basketball player, but I’ve got no ill will towards the brother for making a business decision for what he thinks is best for himself and his family. A free agent is a free agent. Gilbert, like any other professional sports owner, knows this. Nothing in life is a guarantee, especially winning an NBA championship.
As far as I’m concerned, James took the Cavaliers as far as he could take them. With no star cast around him during his seven years in Cleveland, James took his team to an NBA Finals appearance and guided the team to the league’s best record a couple of times.
The only thing that Gilbert and his management brass have done during that time is provide James with window dressing talent around him while they made gobs of money off of the homegrown superstar. It’s incredulous that James was able to accomplish all that he had with that franchise.
Right about now, Gilbert and the city of Cleveland should be thankful that James stayed as long as he did with the Cavaliers. I believe that James, out of loyalty to the state of Ohio, stayed as long as he could. But eventually you have to grow up. James made his decision to leave Cleveland to play for Miami as a grown man, not as a star-struck high school baller coming up from the projects.
Gilbert and the city of Cleveland have probably made millions of dollars off of James since he became an official employee of the Cavaliers. Now that Gilbert’s main money-maker is gone, what trick will he pull next? Disgrace new coach Byron Scott the way he did former coach Mike Brown or go to the back of the room and pout some more.