When Crazy Owners Bite


Back when I was a young employee at The Tennessean in Nashville, a bunch of staffers took a rafting trip to a river in Atlanta. I had never before rafted, and was always a bit nervous around water. Still, I got on my raft, began paddling through the rapids until—BAM! We hit a huge boulder and the whole thing flipped over. There I was, going backward down an extremely fast river, my legs slamming into sharp edges, truly fearful that I was about to die.

When I finally grabbed onto a stone and, eventually, got back into the boat, I flipped. “What the fuck!” I screamed at one of the guides. “Do you have any fucking idea what you’re doing? No fucking way I’m getting back in that boat! No! Fucking! Way!” Toward the end of my rant, I noticed my colleagues staring at me in utter disbelief. The heat of the moment was causing me to act like a shameful, classless 23-year-old brat. To this day, I wince thinking about it (I’m wincing right now. Really).

Tonight, in the immediate aftermath of LeBron James’ lame departure for the sun and fun of Miami, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert lost his shit. In a major, major, major way. He posted the following letter on www.cavs.com, and I urge you to read it fully. I have more to say at the end …

Dear Cleveland, All Of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Cavaliers Supporters Wherever You May Be Tonight;

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.

The good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.

There is so much more to tell you about the events of the recent past and our more than exciting future. Over the next several days and weeks, we will be communicating much of that to you.

You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.

You have given so much and deserve so much more.

In the meantime, I want to make one statement to you tonight:


You can take it to the bank.

If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our “motivation” to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.

Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.

Sorry, but that’s simply not how it works.

This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown “chosen one” sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And “who” we would want them to grow-up to become.

But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called “curse” on Cleveland, Ohio.

The self-declared former “King” will be taking the “curse” with him down south. And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.

Just watch.

Sleep well, Cleveland.

Tomorrow is a new and much brighter day….

I PROMISE you that our energy, focus, capital, knowledge and experience will be directed at one thing and one thing only:

DELIVERING YOU the championship you have long deserved and is long overdue….

Dan Gilbert
Majority Owner
Cleveland Cavaliers


Where to begin? Well, first off, I feel Dan Gilbert’s pain. As my pal Russ Bengtson just wrote to me on IM, “to leave Cle is one thing — to do it via an hour-long televised autoerotic asphyxiation is fucked.” There is no denying the point. James’ move to Miami wasn’t classless, because, quite frankly, who the hell wants to spend his 20s in Cleveland? Especially when a place like Miami beckons? I mean that as no disrespect to the fine folks of Cleveland, but the city is boring. Dull. Unexciting. I probably could have spent my lifetime writing for the Putnam County Press in Mahopac, N.Y., but once one grows up in Mahopac he desperately wants to leave Mahopac. That’s not a slight toward my hometown, just reality.

The way James went about this, however, was unbelievably classless and tacky; like some Vegas hooker having sex on the hood of an automobile in an effort to snag her own reality TV deal. Just so I get this straight: You ask ESPN for a one-hour slot … to scream “Fuck you!” to the place that raised and nurtured you? Really? Really?

So, yes, LeBron James is a yutz. A big one. But Gilbert’s letter was just sad and pathetic; a reason why—even if I somehow stumbled upon a $100 billion fortune—I’d never buy a sports team. Here he is, ripping a 25-year-old kid not really for the tactless way he announced his move … but for moving at all. How dare LeBron leave Cleveland after all it’s done for him! How dare he betray us! Disloyalty!

Dude, chill. The guy has a right to play elsewhere. He has a right to want to experience another part of the country; to play alongside Wade and Bosh. And for an owner to “personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA championship before the self-titled former ‘King’ wins one”? Well, let’s just say nobody’s holding their breath. If you didn’t claim a title with James, you’re not doing it with Delonte West and Jamario Moon, either (But they did just add Sebastian Telfair!).


PS: Luckiest man in America—Byron Scott. He can do nothing but exceed expectations. Unluckiest man in America—Erik Spoelstra. If Miami starts anything worse than 7-3, big Pat takes over.

17 thoughts on “When Crazy Owners Bite”

  1. Hilarious. I really do not care a whit for LeBron, but the owner dude – wow, did he lose it. This is a reminder to go ahead and write that nasty letter/email – just don’t send it. That was the owner’s mistake, posting it, not the vent. Venting is healthy.

  2. I can’t tel whether the Gilbert letter screams of a jilted 16 year old girls Facebook rant or a drunken diatribe written on the back of many, many napkins in the bar of an Applebees.

    I feel the mans pain…well no I don’t, I’m a Yankees fan (though an apologetic one), but Lebron really did just perform perhaps the most insulting exit in the history of sports. I’d be livid as well…just, ya know quietly.

  3. I’m in the camp that says, “If he wanted to go to Miami, fine….but why so noisily?” Seriously, it’s cool to go somewhere else, to me. In fact, when I first heard the rumors of him and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh getting together in Miami, I felt a little excited. I thought it would be fun to watch.

    Then….this media circus. It really locked down why I don’t ever want to become an all-out sportswriter. I love sports. I love the people I meet in sports and I love the lessons I think sports can teach us.

    One of those lessons is humility, at least in my case. I’ve been phenomenally humbled in my life because of my sports career. It’s made me who I am.

    That said, I think The King could use a dose of it.

    Something in me says this isn’t all his doing. I think he enjoys it, but not as much as a lot of us want to think he does. I think this is the work of myriad behind-the-scenes, money-grubbing sources, yanking LeBron around like Geppetto with Pinocchio.

    I’m not sure if that’s a great analogy, but it’s 2:30 in the morning. I’m running with it.

  4. Pearlman: “I mean that as no disrespect to the fine folks of Cleveland”

    with apologies to early ’90s rap:
    question: why is it that every time someone uses the words “no disrespect” in expressing an opinion about a person (or a city), he inevitably disrespects that person (or city)?

    man, funk dat.

  5. I SO can picture you ranting at the rafting guide!!!! Too darn funny!!!

    And I agree about letters written in the heat of the moment. Write ’em, get it all out, then tear ’em up!!!!!

  6. The sad yet predictable thing here is the way Cleveland and NE Ohio, holders of America’s greatest inferiority complex, continue to blame everyone but themselves for their plight. LeBron James was born in Ohio by chance. He was drafted by the Cavs by the luck of the draw. He gave them 7 years of his life. He wished to move on. He owes Cleveland nothing. In fact, it’s they who owe him for putting their dismal little rust-belt town back on the sports map. Is LeBron James a “traitor” for leaving Cleveland? Then so are the other half-million souls who have fled that city since its heyday 50 years ago.

  7. I’m from Cleveland and I’m not offended.

    I’m also a new Cavs fans. I was an old Cavs fan too, though rarely did I follow the NBA.

    I couldn’t bear to watch LeBron, so during his tenure in Cleveland I didn’t watch and couldn’t watch.

    Today is a good day for me. I’m glad to see him gone. He was bad for the city, and people will see that eventually.

    That said, Gilbert’s letter was all he could do for Cleveland. They didn’t want another “thanks LeBron, we’ll miss you,” piece. There are enough of those out there from the fawning media.

    What Clevelanders want is to vent their disappointment and anger in being jilted yet again. Gilbert recognized that and probably won some new fans with his words.

    Was it the right thing to do? Probably not. Was it right for the moment and for his audience? Hell yeah.

    His letter has been emailed to me over and over this morning. Cleveland fans are fired up over it. They appreciate their favorite team’s owner stepping up and not mincing his words.

    Is it going to change the Cavs’ record next season? No.

    I really hope Gilbert is true to his words…not about the championship guarantee, that was stupid…but about sharing more about what went on behind the scenes during the free agent period.

    I think what Gilbert is upset about is LeBron was given the keys to the franchise. He was involved in every major decision, regardless of what LeBron will tell you about LeBron’s involvement. He’s partly to blame for anything that happened in that franchise.

    Yeah, the letter was from a jilted lover but for the moment it was the right thing to do.

  8. Jeff,

    I was quite amused by the letter from Gilbert. Should he have hastily posted it on his webpage? No. But I think it was a natural response to the way LeBron handled this whole process. My Dad gave me two rules growing up: #1 – follow the echo effect. However you treat someone, expect them to treat you the same way (LeBron crapped on the city of Cleveland, so Gilbert did the same to him). #2 – if you ever write an angry letter or email, wait 24 hours before sending it – you may change your mind when it is clear!. I wish that Gilbert would have followed #2, but at the same time, LeBron was asking for it. But I agree, Cleveland is a boring city.

  9. I live in Cleveland and love the letter Dan Gilbert sent out. So do all my friends out here as well as friends and family back home in N.Y. If he wanted to leave for a better roster than it should have been Chicago. The Big CITY, then the knicks. Stupid move by an egomaniac. Do you think Bird ever called up Magic or M.J. at the end of his career to team up to win a ring? Pussy move. Everything Gilbert said is true. He tanked games. Quiters with no heart can beat it.

  10. Kind of a ridiculous letter, I think. Gilbert comes off like a wanker.

    LeBron handled this situation like a complete douchebag, no doubt. But he’s not a slave, and he didn’t make a lifetime commitment to play for the Cavs.

    It’s how the system works. It’s how life works. If you want to leave your hometown or find a new job then wrap up your obligations, pack your bags, and go somewhere else. It’s a free country.

    If Gilbert wanted him to stay, then perhaps he should have tried to surround him with a little more talent.

  11. Jim – you mean a team with the capacity to go 127-38 in the regular season and beat a team featuring Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in 5 games and amass a 2-1 lead in a conference semifinal series in which that team had home-court advantage? yeah, i guess gilbert should have done something like that.

  12. Jim, “…then perhaps he should have tried to surround him with a little more talent.”

    The Cavs won more games the last two years than any other team.

    Seriously, what more needed to be done?

    Win in the playoffs. The Cavs were the No. 1 seed. They failed to play defense (LeBron too), they missed shots, they quit….LeBron stood at halfcourt as two Celtics easily went down and hit an easy bucket.

    I don’t understand how anyone can say the Cavs didn’t do enough to help LeBron. They made it to the NBA finals…they were the No. 1 seed in the playoffs the next year.


    Is LeBron surrounded by talent in Miami? There’s three studs and nine D-Leaguers.

    3 on 5 in the playoffs isn’t going to go so well.

  13. My point is that obviously LeBron thought there wasn’t enough talent in Cleveland. That’s why he left.

    So if he’s your star player and you know he’s thinking that way, then bring in more talent. Otherwise, you have no grounds to bitch when he leaves.

  14. “Dear Cleveland, All Of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Cavaliers Supporters Wherever You May Be Tonight;”

    Seriously, does anyone ever use the semi-colon properly?

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