James's Exit Is `Cowardly Betrayal,' Cavs Owner Says

LeBron James’s decision to spurn his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat was a “cowardly betrayal,” team owner Dan Gilbert said in an open letter to fans.

The two-time National Basketball Association’s Most Valuable Player spurned the Cavaliers, where he spent seven years, along with the New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers to play for the Heat next season.

Gilbert also said in an interview with the Associated Press that James quit on the Cavaliers during their playoff series loss last season to Boston, which won the final three games after trailing 2-1.

James made the announcement last night in an hour-long ESPN special. He made his decision after meeting with all six teams over the past week.

Following is the letter from Gilbert to Cleveland fans as well as statements from the Cavaliers, Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Clippers and Heat after James’s decision:

Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert:

“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.

“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.

“Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us.

“The good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor never will betray you.

“There is so much more to tell you about the events of the recent past and our more than exciting future. Over the next several days and weeks, we will be communicating much of that to you.

“You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal. You have given so much and deserve so much more.

“In the meantime, I want to make one statement to you tonight:

“I personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA championship before the self-titled former ‘king’ wins one.”

“You can take it to the bank.

“If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our motivation to previously unknown and previously never-experienced levels.

“Some people think they should go to heaven but not have to die to get there. Sorry, but that’s simply not how it works.

“This shocking act of disloyalty from our home-grown chosen one sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And who we would want them to grow-up to become. But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called curse on Cleveland, Ohio.

“The self-declared former King will be taking the curse with him down south. And until he does right by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma. Just watch.

“Sleep well, Cleveland. Tomorrow is a new and much brighter day.

“I promise you that our energy, focus, capital, knowledge and experience will be directed at one thing and one thing only: delivering you the championship you have long deserved and is long overdue.”

Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant:

“We believe in this team, this organization, this community, and what we will do to compete at the highest level.

“ We believe in the new coach and leader we have in Byron Scott and the world class basketball organization and positive and strong culture we’ve established.

“Dan Gilbert and our ownership group are firmly committed to reaching our goals and succeeding on the court and in the community, at the highest level.

“Our fans stepped up and showed their support, to a degree unlike anywhere else. We are fortunate to have the support of the best fans in the NBA. That passion and dedication will be rewarded.

“We will work relentlessly to continue to build a team that will contend, a team that will win championships. We are all competitors and our one goal is to win, that and Dan Gilbert and our ownership team’s commitment and investment in this organization and community are constants that will not change.”

Knicks President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh:

“We are disappointed that LeBron James did not sign with the New York Knicks, but we respect his decision.

“Today, we signed five-time NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire and we will continue to move forward, getting back on track to develop into a championship contending team.”

Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov:

“We have a vision of a championship team and need to invest wisely and for the long term.

“Fortunately, we have more than one plan to reach success, and, as I have found in all areas of my business, that is key to achieving it.

“To Nets fans past, present and future, the goal of making the playoffs this season remains intact and we reiterate our commitment to winning a championship within five years.”

Bulls General Manager Gar Forman:

“I remain convinced that this organization made the strongest of bids to acquire LeBron James during this free agency period.

“While we’re disappointed he chose to go to another franchise, our strategy for the future competitiveness of this organization did not begin or end with James, and we feel today’s addition of two-time All-Star Carlos Boozer significantly strengthens our team’s already talented roster.

“It is our goal to keep exploring every avenue that it may take, whether through trades or free agency, to continue to build this team to compete at a championship level.”

Clippers General Manager Neil Olshey:

“Our goal remains unchanged. We will continue to be exhaustive and use every available resource to assemble an exciting and successful team.

“We have a dynamic new head coach who will lead the very talented roster we already have in place. We will use the free agent market to enhance that roster. We expect to compete at a very high level.”

Heat President Pat Riley:

“We are thrilled that LeBron James and Chris Bosh have decided to come to Miami to join forces with our truly great player, Dwyane Wade.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity of building something that our fans in Miami will be proud of for a long, long time. The journey is just beginning.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

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