To some, it looked like he had unwittingly burned a bridge with the organization by leaving Cleveland in dramatic fashion. Consequently, franchise owner Dan Gilbert posted an open letter that lambasted James and assured folks that the Cavs would win a title before the superstar would.
Four years and two titles later, James had another decision to make, and he ultimately opted for a homecoming in Cleveland. Rich Paul disclosed recently on Shannon Sharpe’s podcast how he convinced his good friend and client to choose the Cavs despite Gilbert’s letter.
. @RichPaul4's words that convinced LeBron to return to Cleveland:
"If you (@KingJames) win a championship for the city of Cleveland and the Cleveland @Cavs, I don't care what anybody who get's on any media platform say. It don't even matter." pic.twitter.com/gZNxbESIgr
— Club Shay Shay (@ClubShayShay) October 27, 2023
“Legacy,” Paul told Sharpe. “It’s about legacy, man. We come from a place where two brothers shoot at each other and sleep in the same bed. What we gonna set that for? You wanna put that over your legacy?”
Paul said he also discussed the idea of a Cleveland homecoming with the people in James’ inner circle. He explained to Sharpe why he thought a reunion with the Cavs was the right move.
“I have a perspective on it,” the agent said. “And I don’t make it about me. What I’m saying is in terms of legacy. We identified the talent that was currently on the team. And it wasn’t about winning. I didn’t know they was gonna go to the Finals in the first year. All I was saying was, ‘There’s a opportunity, and if you’re able to win, it’s a wrap. Forget anything else. If you win a championship for the city of Cleveland and the Cleveland Cavaliers, I don’t care what anybody get on, any media platform, it don’t even matter. From that point on, it’s all uphill.'”
As it turned out, following Paul’s advice proved to be the right choice for James. His second stint with Cleveland was a major success.
With James, the Cavs made an impressive run to the 2015 NBA Finals but couldn’t overcome the Golden State Warriors and injuries to Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. The following year, they got their revenge against the Warriors in a championship rematch, allowing James to cement his legacy further in his home state and the sport in general.
The 19-time All-Star may have delivered more titles to Cleveland if Golden State hadn’t signed Kevin Durant in the 2016 offseason.
All appears well now between James and the city of Cleveland, as there was far less drama when he left again in 2018 to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. Fortunately for the future Hall of Famer and the Cavs, James listened to Paul in 2014.