CLEVELAND — Once the news of LeBron James' departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency became official, the biggest question was: What will Dan Gilbert say?
Early Monday morning, we got our answer.
In a tone and tenor much different than his letter to Cavs fans following James' stunning move to Miami in 2010, the Cavs owner sent a message of gratitude to his former player.
Gilbert began the note by affectionately looking back at the moment when his franchise had reached the summit of the NBA two years ago. “We will always remember the evening of June 19, 2016 as the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, ended the 52-year drought delivering the long elusive championship that many thought they would never see... A championship that united generations of Clevelanders, both living and passed. Virtually anyone with roots in Northeast Ohio paused and felt the memories of the past and the utter joy that the burden of the so-called ‘curse’ was finally a thing of the past. Cleveland, Ohio was the home of a championship team for the first time since 1964. Words do not express the meaning and the feeling this accomplishment brought to the people of Northeast Ohio."
Then it was time to thank the man who was most responsible for that signature moment: "None of this would have happened if LeBron James did not agree to come back home and lead the Cavaliers to the promised land. The entire Cavaliers franchise thanks LeBron for that precious moment and for all of the excitement he delivered as he led our team to four straight NBA Finals appearances."
Gilbert then went on to talk about the importance of family in the life of LeBron James: "LeBron is a family man, first. We wish his kids, his wife Savannah, his mother Gloria, and LeBron himself nothing but the best in the years and decades ahead. LeBron’s connection to Akron, Cleveland and all of Northeast Ohio will most certainly endure as his commitment to the region and his support of many important causes has been impactful to so many kids and families."
The close of the letter expressed more gratitude towards LeBron with an olive branch for the future. "LeBron, you came home and delivered the ultimate goal. Nothing but appreciation and gratitude for everything you put into every moment you spent in a Cavaliers uniform. We look forward to the retirement of the famous #23 Cavs jersey one day down the line...”
As ESPN's Darren Rovell points out in a side-by-side comparison, Gilbert has indeed shown a change in maturity that perhaps has come as a result of winning a championship and having James back for a second act.
However it happened, Gilbert's letter was an act of class and dignity. Even as his franchise faces an uncertain future, this action by the owner will go a long way in helping Cavaliers fans cherish the past and honor the man who delivered on his promise to bring a championship home to Northeast Ohio.