‘Pretty Damn Courageous’: Heat’s Godfather Sounds off on LeBron James

LeBron James Pat Riley

Getty Miami Heat president Pat Riley is interviewed by Stuart Scott after his team won the 2012 NBA championship.

They say that time heals all wounds, and there’s probably a lot of truth in the statement. However, more than seven years after LeBron James left the Miami Heat to go back to Cleveland, some people are still mad about it in South Beach.

In 2019, five years after it happened, Heat president Pat Riley was still talking about how he lamented the decision. As he saw it, James had singlehandedly dropped a bomb on what might have been one of the most dominant runs of any team in NBA history.

“When LeBron made that call, I saw a dynasty fly out the window,” Riley told ESPN’s Dan Le Batard at the time. “It was just a sad day for me and for our franchise because I wanted that dynasty. I wanted this city and this team to go 10 years and maybe be in the Finals eight times, I don’t know how many championships we would have won.

“I don’t have any rancor towards him at all. It’s instantaneous insanity. You’re angry and you’re hurt and you get the call you don’t want to hear. That happens to you a lot in life.”

Now, though, Miami’s basketball Godfather looks to have more than made piece with James’ decision. He’s even applauding him for making the move.

Riley: LeBron Was ‘Selfless’ & ‘Courageous’

LeBron James TIES Elgin Baylor for Lakers' ALL-TIME longest 25+ PTS streak in EPIC rally past Jazz 🔥LeBron James had himself a night tying Elgin Baylor for the longest 25-point game streak (23) within a season in Lakers history while simultaneously notching his 24th 30-point game of the season, the most by a Laker player since Kobe Bryant in 2012-13, as the Los Angeles Lakers came back to defeat the Utah Jazz,…2022-02-17T05:52:17Z

James was the latest entrant into The Athletic’s ongoing countdown of the 75 greatest players in league history, as selected by the outlet’s writers, hitting the list at No. 2.

In the write-up on LeBron, his incredible career so far and his place in the sport’s hierarchy, Riley was among those who were asked to sound off. When the subject of James’ 2014 flight out of South Florida was broached, the Heat president expressed a new level of understanding about the baller’s exit.

“I thought it was the most normal thing for him to do,” Riley said. “Somewhere in your life, you have to clean up something and be able to move on. I always felt that even after he left Cleveland and came to Miami for professional reasons, he’s going to have to go back to his hometown one day, or he’s going to have a scarlet letter on him for the rest of his life.”

Riley continued, actually heaping praise on his former player for doing what he did.

“So that’s a pretty damn courageous thing that he did and selfless thing to go back to Cleveland, to rebuild that team. Had he never done that, there was a possibility that he’d have a hard time being accepted there.

“He did the right thing.”

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Could LeBron and the Heat Pick up Where They Left Off?

As reported by Maxim’s Chris Sheridan earlier this month, the Heat are among the betting favorites to land LeBron should he move on from the Lakers at some point. However, the longtime hoops scribe further noted that Miami has more than just the oddsmakers on their side:

James still has a strong relationship with Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra and other members of the Miami Heat organization, and he could do a lot worse than joining forces with Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Sixth Man of the Year lock, Tyler Herro.


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