Petty Personified: Cleveland Cavaliers Dan Gilbert Is NBA's Worst Owner

Cecil HarrisCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2010

GREENWICH, CT - JULY 08:  LeBron James speaks at the LeBron James announcement of his future NBA plans at the Boys & Girls Club of America on July 8, 2010 in Greenwich, Connecticut. James announced during a live broadcast on ESPN that he will play for the Miami Heat next season.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Estabrook Group)
Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Sports don’t build character. Sports reveal character.

This is as true of athletes as of those involved in the business of sports.

A lack of character compelled Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to rant like a petulant child after he lost superstar LeBron James to the Miami Heat and got nothing in return.

Now, Gilbert tells visitors to the Cavaliers website, the Associated Press, and anyone else willing to listen that LeBron is “cowardly,” “selfish” and “a quitter.”

If that’s how Gilbert honestly feels, then why did he offer LeBron $120 million to re-sign with the team?

Why did he not make it known through the NBA grapevine that the Cavs would do a sign-and-trade deal with any team that wants (and can afford) a “cowardly, selfish quitter?”

That way, the Cavs and their fans would have come away with something other than the usual pain and ennui associated with life in Cleveland.

And the Cavs would now have a realistic chance to back up Gilbert’s boast that Cleveland will win an NBA title before LeBron does. The unavoidable fact is, if you look at the Cavs’ roster today—sans LeBron—the team will not win 30 basketball games.

Gilbert must explain why he offered $120 million to a player he now says “quit” in Games Two, Four, Five, and Six of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Celtics?

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“You can look at the tapes,” Gilbert whines.

Actually, there is no need to review the tapes of the four games Cleveland lost in that series. If you’re a basketball fan, you already know LeBron played in that series with an inflamed right elbow. 

Why did he do that? He was trying to win a championship on a one-man team. As LeBron knew throughout his seven years in Cleveland, if he didn’t do it, it was not going to get done.

Cavs management and ownership, which includes Gilbert first and foremost, never surrounded LeBron with the supporting players necessary to win a championship. There were no Pippens and Rodmans, no Odoms and Artests, no Gasols and Fishers.

After seven years, LeBron concluded that the Cavs had failed him. Thus, it was time to move on.

And being born in nearby Akron should not mean LeBron must die on his sword every spring, like some tragic Shakespearean character, in pursuit of an NBA crown.

Although I find LeBron as self-absorbed as any athlete I’ve seen, he is also smart and shrewd. I believe James sensed that with Gilbert as owner, the Cavs would never take a by-any-means-necessary approach to winning an NBA championship. From Gilbert, he would hear only rhetoric, not see substantive action.

Gilbert bought the Cavs from the respected Gund family, which had signed LeBron straight out of high school with the first overall pick in the 2003 draft.

But for all of Gilbert’s wealth—a substantial portion of which was generated from LeBron himself—the man has a serious character deficiency. And no clue about how to maintain a successful franchise.

Now, Cleveland has no LeBron and no new players from a sign-and-trade deal. Just a petty, bombastic owner. A corporate mistake by the lake.