“I had two or three days of tremendous anger. I was absolutely livid, which I expressed to myself and my closest friends.” That’s how Pat Riley described himself after LeBron published an article in SI, letting everyone know he was “coming home.” Riley mentioned a friend talked him down from writing his own Comic Sans letter. That’s how bad it got.
You may think of Pat Riley as the ultimate professional. He is The Godfather, after all. The iconic image of Pacino sitting in a chair, with his legs crossed, making big decisions with a calm voice resonates here. From the custom made suits to the slick hair. But the same as Pacino in the movie, the NBA’s Godfather could lose it at times. Here’s his press release about Danny Ainge from 2013.
“Danny Ainge needs to shut the f— up and manage his own team. He was the biggest whiner going when he was playing and I know that because I coached against him.”Pat Riley’s press release, 2013
So Riley writing his own Comic Sans letter isn’t as farfetched as you may think. One thing for sure, it wouldn’t have been in comic sans. After LeBron left, Riley started to connect the dots – the signs were there. Riley began to hear rumors of moving vans transporting everything out of Miami. Then the Pau Gasol situation happened.
The key acquisition to reinvigorate the Big Three was Pau Gasol. Riley had a meeting with the Spanish center and had asked LeBron to call him too. In the end, Gasol was willing to take less money to come and win rings with James. After the call, Gasol’s agent at the time, Arn Tellem, called Riley to let him know he has a problem. LeBron had told Gasol he would love to play with him, “wherever I may be.”
“I know I have a problem.”Pat Riley, “The Soul of Basketball” by Ian Thomsen
Still, there was hope. Riley got on a plane to go to Las Vegas and meet with LeBron. The first bad sign was that Maverick Carter wasn’t there. The second one was the fact LeBron was watching the World Cup final on TV during the meeting. Still, LeBron’s decision enraged Riley, and the reason was the same as it was in Cleveland. There was no warning – they found out with the rest of us.
After things settled down, Riley said he understood LeBron’s decision to go home and win a title for Cleveland. There was no communication between the two until LeBron won in 2016. Riley sent him a text he never got a response to. But after the game, LeBron said someone in the Heat organization told him he was making the biggest mistake of his career. “And that shit hurt me.” Riley claims it wasn’t him, but he couldn’t state someone else from the organization didn’t say that to him.
Six years later, they meet in the Finals. Both sides would probably officially say they are cool with everything, water under the bridge, that kind of thing. Here’s how Riley explained it.
“I’m a good Irishman. I don’t hold a grudge. Only the drunks do – and the Celtics. But not me.”Pat Riley, “The Soul of Basketball” by Ian Thomsen
We know better. The Last Dance demonstrated that guys like this fabricate problems if there are none. That’s not necessary here. Both sides were hurt how things went down. Riley may not be on the court, but Jimmy Butler will be his avatar. We are in for a treat.