Miami Heat president Pat Riley recalls welcoming teary-eyed LeBron James to Miami after ‘The Decision”. He says the 4x MVP did not anticipate the amount of hate coming his way.
LeBron James went from being the face of the league to the most hated player in Cleveland overnight when he decided to take his talents to the south beach. The fallout between The King and Cleveland Cavaliers was very public and dramatic back in 2010.
The organization’s inability to properly build around LeBron ultimately drove him out of the franchise as there was no answer for the Celtics big 3 at the time. 22-year old LeBron took them to the finals for the first time in franchise history. In addition, he single-handedly led them to the playoffs for five consecutive years.
That, however, did not stop the front office from publicly defaming the superstar after his departure. James did not expect it to go down this way according to Heat president Pat Riley. He revealed the conversation he had with LeBron and his agent before the decision was announced.
They mocked Riley when he tried to warn LeBron about the hatred and criticism coming his way. After the debacle, it finally dawned on the young star the gravity of the decision he just made. He was not at all prepared for everything that followed.
“That night at three in the morning we met him at the airport. They got off the plane, and I remember walking right up to LeBron. He was worn out. He almost had tears in his eyes,” said Pat Riley.
Pat Riley was taken aback by the overconfidence shown by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh
The Miami welcome party on the very next day LeBron arrived added fuel to the fire. While Cleveland was still furious about their superstar leaving them for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, James was making claims about winning 7+ championships with the Heat.
In Ian Thomsen’s book, “The Soul of Basketball” Riley recalled how he actually felt about the extravaganza involved in welcoming James. Miami’s president was aware that a press conference a small party was to take place but the welcome rally attended by 18 thousand people was not what he envisioned.
“I just think the euphoria of that moment and what all three of them had done had got to them. The serotonin level was going high,” said Riley
“Some of the things that were said, I think they would take it back and be a little more humble if they could, and probably the same for us as an organization. But once it got going I was not going up on the stage to throw them off.”
However, as the season progressed they were humbled. 17 games into the season, the trio had a 9-8 record. Miami Heat finished second in the eastern conference behind MVP Derrick Rose’s Chicago Bulls. The loss to Dallas Mavericks in the NBA finals took out the last shred of overconfidence in the Miami Big 3.
They did turn things around, learned from their mistakes, and won 2 championships back-to-back before LeBron’s eventual return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.