Before LeBron James could make his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert needed to sit down and discuss the infamous compilation of words known only as “The Letter.”
On the night James announced his decision to leave the Cavs and join the Miami Heat four years ago, Gilbert addressed a letter to fans calling James a coward, narcissistic, self-indulgent, and guaranteed the Cavs would win a title well before James ever did.
ESPN reported earlier on Friday before James wrote his own address to Cleveland fans for Sports Illustrated, the lone sticking point in a return to Cleveland was Gilbert’s hurtful words.
Nevertheless, Gilbert and James, along with his agent Rich Paul and manager Maverick Carter, hashed out their feelings over the letter, according to Yahoo! Sports.
And both sides apologized.
"We had five great years together and one terrible night," Gilbert said. "I told him how sorry I was, expressed regret for how that night went and how I let all the emotion and passion for situation carry me away. I told him I wish had never done it, that I wish I could take it back."
James also said he regretted the ESPN special “The Decision,” and eventually the two sides began talking about another run together.
"It was more comfortable than I actually thought it would be," Gilbert continued. "They made it easy for me."
Gilbert, who became majority owner of the Cavs in 2005, also understood that the letter began to define him, rather than his business acumen and success as the creator of Quicken Loans, as well as his efforts to rebuild his hometown of Detroit.
"For the first two months, I kept thousands of letters – not hundreds – thousands written to me. There were 90-year-old ladies and CEOs, and I realized that that letter had transcended the event, went far beyond LeBron. After a few months, I would re-read it and just be full of regret. That wasn't me, that wasn't who I am. I didn't mean most of the things I said in there. The venom it produced, from all sides … I wish … I wish I had never done it,” Gilbert said.
"I'm grateful that we all get another chance together now."
Now they can start fresh and bring a title to Cleveland, and Gilbert had some pleasant news from his children, who didn’t burn their James jerseys four years ago.
My 8-year-old: "Daddy, does this mean I can finally wear my Lebron jersey, again?"...Yes it does, son. Yes it does!
— Dan Gilbert (@cavsdan) July 11, 2014