LeBron James’ South Beach Return Brings Out The Bad In Pat Riley

Pat Riley

In the same way he’s the talk of the town when he readies himself to make decisions about where he will be taking his talents, LeBron James likewise attracts much attention when he weighs in on the phenomenon of being the one hoopster who changes everything all by his lonesome in a sport where chemistry and camaraderie typically are championed more than all other characteristics.

And so the stakes are always high when it comes time for The King to make decisions concerning such matters. It’s why when he does, the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat can suddenly find themselves largely viewed as franchises heading in polar different directions. It’s why feelings and emotions are easily bruised when those moments play out. It’s why James and Heat president Pat Riley are no longer even on speaking terms.

During his first trip back to South Beach and American Airlines Arena since he made his plans to leave for Cleveland publicly known, James felt compelled to share with the world the nature of his and Riley’s now ice-cold relationship.

Indeed, before so much as the first-quarter could play out, Riley spoke to the clear and present acrimony that now exists between the two. When a video montage of some of James’ most sizzling Miami highlights played he never so much as bothered to rise from his seat to salute The Chosen One, yet minutes later was moved to do just that when a similarly themed tribute for the now also Cleveland-based James Jones blared over the same Jumbotron.

I’ve got a question,” a clearly vexed James interjected during his postgame interview. “The question I have, which is kind of bothering me sometimes, is when a player decides to decide his own fate, there is always questions about it. ‘Why did this guy do that and his?’ When an organization decides to go elsewhere for a player, it’s that they did what’s best for the team. Let’s figure that out sometimes.”

Given the hypocritical vacuum in which the business side of sports always seems to manifest, James shouldn’t be expecting too many answers anytime soon. But at least he’ll always have memories of the history he and his Big 3 posse of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh made together. He’ll always have the still clearly brotherhood like alliance he shares with Wade.

Seemingly at every pause during the Heat’s 101-91 Christmas Day win over the Cavs, the two appeared as spiritually connected as they’ve ever been, routinely embracing one another and exchanging what seemed like endless high-fives at every opportunity. James later took to Twitter to post “Day 1 until it’s all said and done! @dwyanewade #Brother #GoesBeyondHoopsYouClowns #FamilyOverEverything.”

Apparently, there will be no such sanctity or acts of graciousness when it comes to the preservation of the relationship he once shared with Riley.  And that seems to perplex LeBron James as few things do when it comes to the game he’s so gracefully mastered.

“I gave everything and more to this city when I was here,” James said. “I never disrespected this city or the franchise or any of my teammates. I did everything as a professional and I gave it all. That’s all I can do.”

And that should have been enough for a tip of the hat on Sunday from the man who once called himself his guide and mentor. For a man who has long prided himself on a substantive and dignified approach, Pat Riley picked the one day most reserved for all men to express goodwill among one another to display little of neither attribute.

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Glenn Minnis
Glenn Minnis is an XN Sports NBA contributor. He has written for the Chicago Tribune, ESPN, BET and AOL. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.