Pat Riley allegedly didn’t want Miami Heat players to be friends with LeBron James after he left

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Udonis Haslem revealed that Miami Heat president Pat Riley didn’t want members of the team to be friends with LeBron James after he left the Heat for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2014.

In James’ fourth and final season with the Heat, he led the team to the NBA Finals — a regular occurrence during the Big 3 era. But the Heat lost to the San Antonio Spurs in five games in the 2014 championship series.

The way in which that series transpired may have hinted that the James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh era was nearing its end. After all, Wade and Bosh arguably didn’t play like All-Star players during the NBA Finals. Additionally, every one of the Heat’s four losses against the Spurs came by 15 points or more.

Fast forward to July of 2014, and James inked a deal in free agency to return to the Cavaliers, the team he spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career with.

James’ second stint in Cleveland spanned four seasons. He — alongside big man Kevin Love and guard Kyrie Irving — won the Cavaliers their first title in franchise history in 2016.

The Heat were unable to replicate their previous dominance in the seasons following James’ departure. For a five-season stretch from the 2014-15 season through the 2018-19 campaign, Miami never won 50 games in any single season and made it past the first round of the playoffs just once.

It wasn’t until the Heat acquired Jimmy Butler ahead of the 2019-20 season that the franchise became an Eastern Conference heavyweight once again. During the Butler era, the Heat have reached the NBA Finals twice — in 2020 and 2023 — and the Eastern Conference Finals three times.

Though Riley apparently didn’t want Heat players fraternizing with James when he was on another team, Haslem clearly still has a lot of love for the 39-year-old — who he won two titles with — to this day. James remains a Heat icon, and his role in the Big 3 will always be remembered.

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Jesse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA.