It has been six years since LeBron James departed Miami back to Cleveland. After the Heat lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. That summer following the defeat it was reported that LeBron James was very distant. During the free agency meeting with Heat management in Las Vegas, which included Alonzo Mourning and Pat Riley.
James was reportedly playing video games, ignoring Riley, according to Stephen A Smith on First Take in 2019.
“I’ll tell you a story that resonates far deeper than that, Jay [Williams]. Not only did Pat Riley come out to Vegas, but literally, while Pat Riley was there to come and talk to LeBron in Vegas, LeBron was playing some Nintendo game, or PlayStation, or whatever the hell that he was playing and it was considered so disrespectful that Alonzo Mourning, from what I was told, had to step in the fray and say, ‘Yo, you are not going to disrespect this man like that.’ That’s how bad it was.”
Fast forward six years, the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers will face off in the NBA Finals. James will be facing his former team, and Pat Riley, although he is no longer coaching, will be on the other side from his former team. Riley played with the Lakers from 1971-76, which he won a champion in 1972, then went on to coach won four championships with the ‘Showtime’ Lakers in the 1980s.
James and Riley have publicly patched up their differences, but according to former NBA veteran Ryan Hollins, the matchup is personal.
“I know for a fact, Miami against LeBron, Pat Riley, and Spo versus LeBron, this is personal. This is personal, and I know if LeBron goes and gets this, he will have to earn it because they will hit him, elbow, slap, and put him in a headlock,” said Hollins on Instagram Live with Brendan Haywood.
“And if these refs let Miami play, and they get to play their tempo, dog it could be a completely different ball game. LeBron James is going to have to come out and earn this championship, and that’s facts!”
There is still some bad blood between LeBron James and Pat Riley.
“Yeah is personal,” said Haywood.
“There is still a bitterness, even though they play nice and they have forgiven each other, Pat Riley didn’t like the way LeBron James left Miami. I’m going to go even deeper. When LeBron first left Miami, that is when they first launched Klutch Sports see Pat Riley felt disrespected and you have to understand. Pat Riley was trying to talk to Bron, and he was like, talk to my agent Rich Paul. Pat Riley was like the dude that was selling throwback jerseys? Pat Riley was like naw, I want to talk to you. Bron would even talk to Pat. Klutch Sports really took off when Bron went to Cleveland. Who did Klutch Sports have before Bron? Nobody they came in on the ground level all they had was Bron, and Bron understood if me and Rich are going to be able to do this, but if i’m going to empower Rich’s agency I have to let him represent me. That’s where the bad blood started.
James would depart back to Cleveland for four seasons winning a championship in 2016 against the Warriors, but Riley could hold back his frustration with James leaving.
“This stuff is hard. And you go to stay together, if you’ve got the guts. And you don’t find the first door and run out of it.” James accepted the challenge, returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Riley was “very angry,” requiring a confidant to convince him not to lambaste James, just as Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert had done in comic sans four years earlier.
“I had two to three days of tremendous anger,” Riley told Ian Thomsen in “The Soul of Basketball” in 2018, conceding he and James had never spoken in the years since. “I was absolutely livid, which I expressed to myself and my closest friends. My beautiful plan all of a sudden came crashing down. That team in 10 years could have won five or six championships. But I get it. I get the whole chronicle of [LeBron’s] life.”