Posted Jul 9 2010 1:18AM
You kept waiting for word from the Cavaliers that this was a cruel joke played on them. That a hacker, a drunken and jilted Cavaliers fan, staggered out of the bar, broke into the team's website and spit out a hate letter directed to someone who's being slimed in Cleveland today as the second coming of Art Modell. That the Cavs would quickly discover the crime and clarify that, as an organization, it holds no ill will toward LeBron James.
|Dan Gilbert's Letter to Fans|
But no. This letter was legit. This was unedited, unadulterated, unrestrained and unreal. This was from Dan Gilbert, the owner -- an owner! -- who evidently refused to go for a long walk before he called his secretary and asked her to take a memo.
If you think Gilbert's open letter to Cavaliers' fans, posted moments after LeBron chose to sign with the Heat, was filled with vitriol, just imagine what came out of David Stern's mouth when he read it. Oh, yes, you can imagine the commissioner is hotter today than the Heat's championship chances. Gilbert should be fined, must be fined, and heavily, because he came off looking small in the wake of LeBron leaving, when instead he should've been above it all.
Some strong words from Gilbert to describe LeBron in what obviously was an emotional reaction to the bad news for Cleveland. Fightin' words, even. And while that's certainly an OK and understandable reaction from fans in a sports city that just took another kick to the groin, it's unprofessional and unworthy coming from a team owner.
Oh, and that's not the worst part. It's quite possible Gilbert issued a veiled threat, telling fans "there is so much more to tell you about the events of the recent past." Is Gilbert planning to get even more personal and perhaps spill some company secrets, all designed to embarrass LeBron? Oh, boy. Have you ever heard an owner react this way to a player? The answer is never. Some owners in the past expressed anger and disappointment at players who broke the law or did something heinous that embarrassed the franchise. But what did LeBron do? Leave?
We might be talking about a record fine here. Not anything approaching the hit that Gilbert just absorbed, in terms of franchise value ($100 million?), now that LeBron's walking. But steep enough.
Sure, LeBron has made some PR mistakes in the last year leading up to free agency. Nothing horrible. Nothing that should've made him a media punching bag, which has been the case lately (what felony did he commit, exactly?). But a few. Yes, indeed. He didn't call Gilbert before making the announcement. Gilbert was owed that much. He turned a recruiting session into a public spectacle and then to ridiculous heights with a one-hour televised special, which screamed ego. Agreed.
But didn't he just give seven years to the Cavaliers? Two MVP years? Didn't he make Gilbert, already a rich man, even richer? Didn't he put Cleveland on the NBA map, when before he arrived, the team was a speck? Again, the fan reaction was understood and perhaps valid to a degree. But from an owner? Just because LeBron chose a change in scenery?
LeBron filled the requirements of his contract (Game 5 vs. Celtics aside); that was the extent of his loyalty to Gilbert. And about that word loyalty. There is none in professional sports. Not from players or owners. It's all about business. You want loyalty, go to your local youth league and soak it up. Don't come to the pros, where players are looking after their self-interests and owners after theirs. That's the unspoken agreement between the two sides. You do what's best for you, and I'll do what's best for me.
As for Cleveland, well, LeBron has been loyal to his hometown: Akron.
But back to the letter. Gilbert said he was "bitterly" disappointed, and again, his franchise value just took a massive hit, along with its national TV appeal. He added that LeBron "deserted" the region, as though LeBron fled a bunker and left Northern Ohio to fend for itself. In reality, LeBron wanted to win a championship, and he believes his best chance lies in Miami. He might be wrong, or perhaps right; time will tell. He left $30 million on the table. That's "cowardly?" Stupid, maybe, from a financial standpoint. But cowardly?
There's a rule in the NBA where teams must be given a 10-minute cooling off period after games before meeting the media. Gilbert should've followed that rule in the wake of The Decision. He didn't. Instead, he stoked the raw emotions of a bitter city; can you imagine the angry build-up leading to the Heat's first visit to Cleveland next season? A good owner -- and Gilbert is solid -- allowed his emotions to get the best of him, and made him look unprofessional.
Oh, and the most interesting part of the letter? Between the hate words directed at LeBron, Gilbert personally guaranteed the Cavs would win a championship "before the self-titled former 'King' wins one."
So, in addition to looking petty, Gilbert also sounds foolish.
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