Rumors of a beef between Miami Heat GM Pat Riley and LeBron James aren’t going to go away anytime soon now that Riley has poured a little more gasoline on the fire.
When LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Title this past year, James told ESPN’s David McMenamin that “there were some people that I trusted and built relationships with in those four years who told me I was making the biggest mistake in my career” when he decided to leave Miami for Cleveland.
While James never said Riley by name, it was widely rumored that Pat was the person he was referring to. After LeBron left Miami, Riley told reporters that the upcoming season would feature “no more smiling faces with hidden agendas.” He also complained about LeBron leaving in an interview with Bleacher Report in 2015, saying that didn’t understand the mentality of wanting to leave a good situation via free agency.
You can add one more dig from Riley now that he’s told the Sun Sentinel that acquiring Shaquille O’Neal was a bigger deal for the Heat franchise than acquiring LeBron James.
“I’ll say this, and I mean this,” Riley says during a relaxed moment this past week, “Shaq’s acquisition was bigger than any acquisition that we ever made, including the Big Three.”
Bigger than LeBron James. Bigger than Chris Bosh. And bigger, Riley says, than the player who helped Riley turn around the franchise around upon their dual arrivals in 1995, Alonzo Mourning.
“Zo was big,” Riley says, “but getting Shaquille changed everything for our franchise.”
Now, on one hand you could argue that Riley is right. Before O’Neal came to Miami, the franchise had never even been to the NBA Finals. Shaq, along with Dwyane Wade, led the Heat to their first NBA Title and legitimized the idea of a superstar playing for the Florida team. His arrival helped push from “that expansion franchise” to a legitimate team and destination.
That said, LeBron came to Miami not only led the team to two NBA Championships but also led them to the NBA Final all four years he was there. The Heat became the NBA’s premiere franchise with LeBron and he lifted them to heights they probably won’t reach again for a long time. Not to mention that when you include the snippy beef James and Riley seem to have with one another, it’s hard not to see this as a dig in some way.
Regardless, James probably isn’t sweating it. His Cavaliers are the defending champions, Riley’s Heat are in full-on rebuilding mode, and all of the talk in the world isn’t going to change either of those things.