Bitter Cavs owner says LeBron 'quit' in playoffs

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert in an undated file

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert in an undated file photo. (Credit: AP)

As William Shakespeare might have said were he chronicling modern life in Cleveland, "Hell hath no fury like an NBA owner scorned."

Acting out on behalf of his team's angry fans, Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert called LeBron James every name in the book from "coward" to "quitter" for his decision to abandon Cleveland for the Miami Heat and the sybaritic delights of the South Beach lifestyle.

James announced his decision during a contrived TV special on ESPN on Thursday night without giving Gilbert the courtesy of informing him directly ahead of time. That selfish act apparently lit the fuse for a blowup by Gilbert that had been building during the past two years as he indulged James' cynical machinations.

Late Thursday night after the announcement, Gilbert lashed out with a letter to Cavaliers fans posted on the team's website in which he portrayed James' move as a "cowardly betrayal," a "heartless and callous action" and a "shameful display of selfishness and betrayal."

In case anyone missed Gilbert's emphasis on betrayal, he ordered "Fathead," another company he owns, to begin a clearance sale on James' vinyl wall graphics from $99.99 to $17.41 in honor of the year traitorous Gen. Benedict Arnold was born.

But Gilbert saved his most damning comments for an Associated Press interview in which he charged James with "quitting" in the Cavaliers' second-round playoff loss to Boston this season as well as in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference finals loss to Orlando in 2009.

Describing the Cavs' loss to the Celtics in a series they led 2-1, Gilbert said: "He quit. Not just in Game 5 [a 32-point Cleveland loss in which James scored only 15 points and shot 3-for-14 from the field], but in Games 2, 4 and 6. Watch the tape. The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar."

Referring to the Game 6 loss to Orlando last year, Gilbert said, "How many shots did he take?" James scored 25 points, making eight of a team-high 20 shots in a 13-point loss that sent Orlando to the NBA Finals.

Since the end of the season, Gilbert said James never returned a single telephone message or text to the Cavs, who learned of his decision only moments before the announcement in a telephone call from Rich Paul, one of James' business partners.

"It's not about him leaving," Gilbert said. "It's the disrespect. It's time for people to hold these athletes accountable for their actions. Is this the way you raise your children? I've been holding this all in for a long time."

Gilbert, who has owned the Cavs for the past five of James' seven seasons in Cleveland, held nothing back in his letter. He poked fun at Nike's "We are all witnesses" ad campaign, calling James' "narcissistic" TV special "unlike anything ever 'witnessed' in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment. Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us."

Using capital letters to scream in print, Gilbert guaranteed the Cavaliers will "win an NBA championship before the self-titled former 'King' wins one."

Finally, Gilbert said James' departure will lift the so-called "curse" on Cleveland sports because the bad karma stemming from his decision will follow him to Miami.

It sounded like a prayer to the big referee in the sky to bring down Cleveland's wrath upon James.

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