About a year ago, Pat Riley revealed some details about his relationship with LeBron James while he was interviewed for a profile by ESPN’s Wright Thompson. Now, Ian Thomsen is coming out with a book, The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown Between LeBron, Kobe, Doc and Dirk that Saved the NBA. And Riley opened up a bit more about his relationship with one of the game’s greatest players.
ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan reported that Riley asked James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for a brief meeting after the Heat fell to 9-8 during the 2010-11 season. The following is an excerpt from MacMullan’s piece:
“They just said, ‘We’re not feeling it,’ or something like that,” Riley told Thomsen. “We talked about the typical things that we have to do, have patience and all of that stuff.
”And I remember LeBron looking at me, and he said, ‘Don’t you ever get the itch?’ I said, ‘The itch for what?’ He said, ‘The itch to coach again?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t have the itch.’ He didn’t ask any more questions, and I didn’t offer any more answers. But I know what it meant, and I always go back and wonder about what he was thinking at that time. He walked out scratching his leg like it was itching.”
Riley also professed ignorance about the Heat’s infamous celebration in AmericanAirlines Arena following the announcements from James, Bosh and Wade that they would form a triumvirate. He said that he focused on negotiating the terms of the sign-and-trades for James and Bosh and “couldn’t believe there were 18,000 people in the arena.” Still, he said the celebration was “my fault’ and “all on me.”
The Heat President also said that after a few days of “tremendous anger,” he came to see that James made the “right decision” to go back to the Cavaliers and win a championship for that beleaguered franchise.
In another tidbit, Riley said that he sent James a text before Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals saying, “Win this and be free” — the first time he said he contacted James since the summer of 2014. Hardcore Heat fans may remember that James said that some people he “trusted” told him he was making the biggest mistake of his career to sign with Cleveland. Riley said he never said that in the book.
Will we see Riley and James have a relationship in the coming years? The longtime Heat president repaired his fractured relationship with Wade earlier this year. If the Heat and Cavs meet in the playoffs, they may pass each other in the halls. We’ll see.