CLEVELAND – Angered and feeling betrayed by LeBron James’ decision to leave for Miami, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert accused the NBA’s MVP of quitting during the playoffs.
Gilbert, who posted a letter to Cavs fans on the team’s website shortly after James announced his plans to sign with the Heat, told The Associated Press late Thursday night that it’s “accountability time” for James.
“He has gotten a free pass,” Gilbert said in a phone interview with The AP. “People have covered up for (James) for way too long. Tonight we saw who he really is.”
Gilbert feels James quit on the Cavs during their second-round series against the Boston Celtics, who rallied from a 2-1 deficit to eliminate Cleveland.
“He quit,” Gilbert said. “Not just in Game 5, but in Games 2, 4 and 6. Watch the tape. The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar.”
The Cavaliers were beaten by 32 points in Game 5. During the game, James appeared distracted and uninterested, often glaring at Cleveland’s coaches as the Cavs tried to foul to get back into the game in the second half. James also made some puzzling postgame comments, saying he had “spoiled” people with his play over seven seasons.
Gilbert, who has owned the Cavs for five years, said he was most disappointed by James’ behavior in the months leading up to the superstar’s announcement that he is going to Miami to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Gilbert said James never returned a phone message or text since the end of the season and that the Cavs were not informed of James’ decision until he went on the air.
Gilbert issued a letter to Cavs fans decrying James’ actions.
“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,” Gilbert wrote. “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.”
Meanwhile, Cleveland fans gathered around televisions and yelled in anguish as James made his announcement.
At the Harry Buffalo bar across the street from the Cavs’ Quicken Loans Arena, some fans sat quietly stunned, while others cried out in disbelief. Men gathered around the bar and buried their heads in their hands.
“Honestly, I think it was very arrogant,” said Earl Mauldin of Cleveland. “And I think it was a slap in the face to this city who had supported him and been behind him since he was in high school. To go on national TV and spit in our face like that is very, very, very wrong.”