LeBron James Says He Felt Dan Gilbert's Letter When He Left Cavs Was Racial

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistOctober 17, 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers recieves his championship ring from owner Dan Gilbert before the game against the New York Knicks at Quicken Loans Arena on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James saw racial overtones in the letter addressed to him by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert after James signed with the Miami Heat in July 2010.

In an interview with GQ's Mark Anthony Green, James discussed his feelings toward Gilbert's letter and why he decided against re-signing with the Cavaliers:

"Um, I did. I did. It was another conversation I had to have with my kids. It was unfortunate, because I believed in my heart that I had gave that city and that owner, at that point in time, everything that I had. Unfortunately, I felt like, at that point in time, as an organization, we could not bring in enough talent to help us get to what my vision was. A lot of people say they want to win, but they really don't know how hard it takes, or a lot of people don't have the vision. So, you know, I don't really like to go back on that letter, but it pops in my head a few times here, a few times there. I mean, it's just human nature. I think that had a lot to do with race at that time, too, and that was another opportunity for me to kind of just sit back and say, 'Okay, well, how can we get better? How can we get better? How can I get better?'"

Gilbert pulled no punches regarding his attitudes toward James at the time, describing James' decision to sign with the Heat as a "cowardly betrayal" and a "shocking act of disloyalty."

Gilbert also said, "Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there."

He also promised the Cavaliers would win a title before the Heat, a proclamation that proved to be well wide of the mark. Miami reached four straight NBA Finals and won two NBA titles with James on the roster, while Cleveland won 97 combined games in the four seasons after James' departure.

The NBA subsequently fined Gilbert $100,000 for the letter.

Gilbert told Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical in 2014 that he had personally apologized to James when the Cavs were in the process of trying to re-sign the four-time NBA MVP.

"We had five great years together and one terrible night," Gilbert said. "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."

Gilbert's letter didn't preclude James from returning to Cleveland, but the fact he continues to think about it arguably offers further evidence that it's not inconceivable he could leave the Cavs for a second time.

NBA writer Chris Sheridan reported in August that the 13-time All-Star is already essentially out the door and that his "relationship with owners [is] beyond repair." FS1's Chris Broussard refuted the report, tweeting James won't decide his future until after the 2017-18 season.


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