At the time, the letter seemingly represented a burning bridge between Gilbert and James, but in the end, it didn’t stop the Cavs legend from returning to the team in 2014.
Dwyane Wade, who was teammates with James during Miami’s Big 3 era, recently explained that if he had been in James’ position, he wouldn’t have returned to Cleveland because of the letter.
“I don’t know,” Wade said after being asked how James was able to set the letter aside and return to Cleveland. “And that’s why I never thought Cleveland was in play. Not saying that I never thought that he was gon’ be in Miami forever — I wasn’t thinking that way — but I never thought Cleveland was in play because I’m petty. And so if I was going off of how I would have done it, no, I’m — naw, I’m not coming back to you. But at the same time, man, LeBron has a journey, and it’s bigger than a letter that Dan Gilbert could put out.”
Gilbert’s letter in the aftermath of James’ departure was lengthy and full of emotion. As part of it, he called James’ decision “cowardly.”
“You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal,” Gilbert wrote to Cavs fans as part of the letter.
“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.'”
The Cavs didn’t end up winning a title before James did, as the future Hall of Famer won two rings with the Heat before Cleveland ever raised a banner.
However, upon his return to the Cavs, James was able to help the team win its first title in franchise history. It came in 2016 in dramatic fashion, as Cleveland knocked off one of the most impressive teams in NBA history in the Golden State Warriors to win it all.
If not for James’ ability to get past Gilbert’s letter, the Cavs would probably still be looking for their first NBA title. Fortunately for all involved parties, the 19-time All-Star didn’t let that happen.
These days, James is looking to win another ring with the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Cavs are looking for their first championship since the veteran left.
There has been a lot of speculation about the possibility of James returning to Cleveland once more before he retires, but several dominoes would have to fall the right way in order for that to happen. Regardless, the memories of 2016 will live in the minds of Cavs fans forever.