Pat Riley’s extraordinary change of heart on LeBron James departing Miami Heat in 2014: ‘He did the right thing’

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Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James experienced four marvelous seasons with the Miami Heat from 2010 to 2014.

Yet, the veteran’s departure from Miami in 2014 to go back to the Cleveland Cavaliers made Heat president Pat Riley very irate.

In a recent story for The Athletic by Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd, Riley described how his feelings towards James’ exit have not only changed, but that he also views the four-time MVP’s decision as “courageous” and “selfless.”

“I thought it was the most normal thing for him to do,” Riley said. “Somewhere in your life, you have to clean up something and be able to move on. I always felt that even after he left Cleveland and came to Miami for professional reasons, he’s going to have to go back to his hometown one day, or he’s going to have a scarlet letter on him for the rest of his life.

“So that’s a pretty damn courageous thing that he did and selfless thing to go back to Cleveland, to rebuild that team. Had he never done that, there was a possibility that he’d have a hard time being accepted there.

“He did the right thing.”

James, 37, jolted from Cleveland to join the Heat in 2010.

While James’ move was met with vitriol and frustration across the league, he was embraced by Miami. In fact, Riley publicly defended James on multiple accounts.

The partnership between James and the Heat got off to a poor start, as the franchise lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals. However, the organization went on to figure things out in a stellar way.

The Heat won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. James’ championship with the Heat in 2012 marked the first ring of his career.

Furthermore, James and the Heat racked up a myriad of other impressive accomplishments, including attaining a 27-game winning streak during the 2012-13 season.

While the Heat captured dynamic championships in consecutive years, they were dismantled by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals.

During Riley’s free agency meeting with James in the ensuing offseason, he was reportedly disrespected by the NBA icon. Later that summer, the All-Star announced his decision to go back to Cleveland.

Over the years, Riley threw shots at the legend, and James had no problem hurling subtle attacks right back.

As a matter of fact, James revealed after winning a title with the Cavs in 2016 that one of his apparent motivations was thanks to Riley.

Now, a ton has changed between the two icons, as both are in better places. The four-time champion has extensively praised the intelligent executive while Riley has handed James lofty affirmation.

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Born and raised in South Florida, Justin has always been a passionate Miami Heat fan. An avid supporter from the time Miami got its first championship in 2006 to having a league-worst 15-67 record in 2008 to the whole LeBron James era until now, Justin has seen and stuck through it all. His all-around analysis and heart for the game has made him a premier NBA writer. He writes for a variety of sites but his commitment to the Heat is always top priority.