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“Win this and be free” — the text Pat Riley sent to LeBron James during Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals

Riley shared he avoided sending the text before the game and that James never really replied to him after he read the text.
Miami Heat team president Pat Riley and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James

Pat Riley and LeBron James

The well-documented beef between LeBron James and Pat Riley was the most interesting storyline after the former departed from the Miami Heat in 2014. The General Manager hated James for betraying the Heat organization and carried that anger with him as The King went on to play his second stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

However, as the years went by, Riley was the one who reached out and tried to squash the beef first by texting James while he was on the verge of bringing a championship to his home city.

The text that Riley sent out

While James was in the middle of a do-or-die game against the Golden State Warriors (the same team that broke the best regular season record in NBA history) for a championship, Riley knew that if James won this title, it would be his declaration of independence from him and the Heat. The Godfather also admitted that he avoided sending the text before the game and that James never really replied to him after he read the text.

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"I didn't want to send him anything that he could read before he hit the floor," Riley told Ian Thomsen in his book "The Soul of Basketball." "As soon as he hit the floor, I sent a text to him. I said, 'Win this and be free.' "He never got back to me with a response…," Riley added.

After winning the title for Clevland in 2016, James admitted that the people he built close relationships with and trusted in Miami scrutinized him for his departure. According to James, these people even went out of their way to tell him that he'd never win a championship again, which hurt LeBron. When Riley was asked if he was the one James was talking about, he said it wasn't him.

LeBron won the breakup.

Nine years after James and Riley went their separate ways, it's fair to conclude that the former won the breakup. James, who also accomplished his promise of bringing a championship to Los Angeles, has won 2 rings since leaving the Heat, while Riley's team hasn't. It's also fitting that LeBron won his second championship post-Miami against the Heat in the 2020 NBA Bubble, where the Lakers beat Riley's team in 6 games.

Unless the Miami Heat finally end their championship drought, LeBron will always have the edge. Only time will tell if a plot twist arises or if the beef between Riley and James has been indeed silently squashed years ago. 

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