LeBron James' free-agency decision has seemingly come down to the Miami Heat or Cleveland Cavaliers. As King James mulls his options, old wounds could ultimately prove to be the deciding factor.
When LeBron spurned the Cavs for Miami four years ago, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert famously penned a scathing letter that blasted James.
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.
According to ESPN.com's Chris Broussard, there are sources that believe the infamous letter still miffs LeBron to this day.
"If it wasn't for that letter, this would've been done a while ago," one source told Broussard.
The letter was recently removed from the Cavs' website. While it is out of sight for most, it apparently isn't out of LeBron's mind. Per Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, there is a growing feeling that Gilbert's fury from four years ago could push James back to South Beach:
Across the league, team officials wondering if the idea that LBJ is suddenly hung up on @CavsDan letter is softening ground for Miami return— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) July 11, 2014
If that ultimately happens, then it will come as a surprise to the Cavaliers. According to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, the organization isn't aware of the letter playing any type of role in LeBron's decision-making process:
Told reports of Dan Gilbert's old letter to LeBron has never been relayed to Cavs as possible sticking point. So reports are news to them.— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) July 11, 2014
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports reports that his sources disagree with Broussard's report:
LeBron sources: Gilbert letter a non issue. Pull of "saving" Cleveland considerable. If just about hoops, stays in Miami w short term deal— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) July 11, 2014
It has been nearly impossible to decipher fact from fiction throughout James' free-agent saga. If LeBron is at a stalemate currently, though, it stands to reason that something like the letter could serve as a tiebreaker. Gilbert wrote it in the heat of the moment, but he certainly said some hurtful things.
If James believes Gilbert expressed his true feelings in that letter, then he might ultimately decide that playing for Gilbert isn't an ideal scenario.
LeBron has to take everything into account, including his history with both franchises and the winning opportunities they will present him with moving forward. James may have an easier time winning in Miami right now; however, Cleveland could be the better long-term option.
Should Gilbert's letter impact LeBron's decision?
James was beloved in Cleveland when he played there, but he became a hated man when he left. The rage was somewhat understandable since LeBron didn't handle his exit in the best way, but it has to be difficult for James to forget about that vitriol.
LeBron has reached the NBA Finals in four straight seasons and won two titles with the Heat. He is beloved in the area, and he has to know that Heat president Pat Riley will do everything possible to keep the team in title contention.
There is more uncertainty involved with going back to the Cavs, especially due to Gilbert's volatility. Many felt as though Gilbert ruined the chances of James ever returning to Cleveland when he wrote that letter four years ago. That may ultimately come home to roost in the very near future.
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