NBA Free Agency: Dan Gilbert's LeBron James Comments Reek of Sour Grapes

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2010

On a night where the sports world was held captive by a 25-year-old narcissist, who would have ever guessed that his 48-year-old former boss would be the one who ended up looking like King Jerk by the end of the night?

Yes, LeBron James went on ESPN Thursday night to televise Cleveland's most painful breakup since the Browns left town in the mid-90s.

And yes, the words "Thank you, Cleveland" never emerged from James' mouth during the hour-long special (although the words "I gave a lot to that [Cleveland] organization" popped up repeatedly). 

But is that a huge departure from the James who said, "I spoil people with my play" after losing Game Five to Boston in the Eastern Conference Semifinals?

Meanwhile, shortly after James announced his decision, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, posted a final message to LeBron on the team's official website.  Dwyane Wade was rendered "speechless" by it, and for good reason.

Gilbert never referred to LeBron by name in The Letter; instead, he threw around words like "narcissistic," "cowardly betrayal," "disloyalty," "heartless," and "callous" to describe the "former King." 

Gilbert promised Cleveland a championship before LeBron ever wins his own LeRing.  He swore that James would be "taking the 'curse' with him down south," bringing "bad karma" to wherever he lives until he does right by Cleveland.

You want to talk about bad karma?

How about throwing your former god under a moving bus? 

And yes, Gilbert thought of James as a god before Thursday night.  Why else would Gilbert have bent at LeBron's every whim, like hiring one of his friends to "hang out with the team so James would be comfortable," or allowing members of James' management team to fly on the team jet?

Gilbert acquiesced to LeBron because he had no other choice.  Gilbert was living in constant fear of the very moment that occurred at 9:27 p.m. last night, when LeBron finally decided that Cleveland couldn't set him up for the championship(s) that he desires.

And when LeBron made his decision official, Gilbert lashed out in the same way that any 13-year-old whose boyfriend broke up with her on Facebook would.

Gilbert resorted to name-calling.  He tried to smear LeBron's LeLegacy.  He (aimlessly) attempted to convince Cleveland that the Cavaliers were better off without their self-appointed King, who just publicly divorced them.

Amazingly, Gilbert's diatribe against James was only the start.  He also spoke very candidly about James with reporters from the Associated Press on Thursday night, continuing the "let's slam LeBron any way I can" spirit.

Gilbert wasn't above repeating the common refrain about James from this year's playoffs: He accused James of "quitting" on his team. 

"He quit," Gilbert said. "Not just in Game 5, but in Games 2, 4 and 6. Watch the tape. The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar."

But Gilbert took it one step further, accusing James of quitting on the Cavs against Orlando in Game Six of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals.

"Go back and look at the tape," Gilbert said. "How many shots did he take?"

Twenty.  He took 20 shots, Mr. Gilbert.   He made eight of them.  He finished the night with 25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and a block.  He averaged 38-8-8 on the series.

If that's quitting, can you send five of those "quitters" to my team, immediately?

No, let's be honest.  You even admitted the real issue yourself, Mr. Gilbert.

"He has gotten a free pass," Gilbert said to the AP reporters. "People have covered up for [James] for way too long. Tonight we saw who he really is."

"People"...doesn't that category begin with you, Mr. Gilbert?

After all, if basketball teams start at the top, as LeBron mentioned last night during The Decision, they start with the owner—that's you, Mr. Gilbert.  

You enabled LeBron and the LeMadness.

Now, to your credit, you did make one point last night with some merit. 

"It's not about him leaving," Gilbert said. "It's the disrespect. It's time for people to hold these athletes accountable for their actions. Is this the way you raise your children? I've been holding this all in for a long time."

But ironically, with your actions, Mr. Gilbert, you spit in the face of that comment.  You're talking about disrespect?   You're asking if this is how parents should raise their children?

Should parents raise their children to call people names, to publicly flagellate their former heroes?  Are you raising your kids to call someone a big fat meanie-head when that someone "betrays" them, Mr. Gilbert?

I understand that being broken up with sucks.  And the way that LeBron broke up with Cleveland last night made it that much worse. 

There's no denying that James is an egotistical maniac, concerned with himself, NBA championships, and the LeBron brand above all else.  You don't schedule a Larry King Live interview during the NBA Finals, or arrange for an hour-long special to announce your free agency decision otherwise.

Still, at the end of the night, LeBron James is the one heading to Miami, sacrificing millions of dollars for his chance at championships.

And Dan Gilbert is the one simmering, smoldering, and shouting to no one in particular back in Cleveland. 

While Cleveland lost one King on Thursday night, they found another: Dan Gilbert, King Jerk.


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