After four years with the Miami Heat, LeBron James left the franchise behind to re-join the Cleveland Cavaliers and bring a championship to his home city.
That summer, before the decision was made, Pat Rily and the Heat apparently tried to negotiate a deal with Bron for less than the max. Unstandably, James refused and it could be part of the reason he chose to leave.
According to Marc Stein, Riley’s offer was pretty much ignored by the King, who eventually announced that he’d be returning to Cleveland.
Hearing about the level of latitude James Harden says he granted the Sixers in his contract negotiations reminded me of a little-known tale stemming from Miami’s attempts to convince LeBron James to stay on South Beach in the 2014 offseason before James decided to go home to Cleveland for a second stint with the Cavaliers. That summer, Miami’s Pat Riley and noted Heat front-office strategist Andy Elisburg hosted James’ agent Rich Paul and longtime NBA agent and attorney Mark Termini, then the lead negotiator for Klutch Sports, for a meeting to discuss what the Heat could do roster- wise depending on various contract constructions … and to see if there was any way James’ representatives would agree to something less than a maximum deal to afford the Heat more financial flexibility for roster building.
James, to that point in his career, had stunningly never been a max player, which were the only terms Paul and Termini were prepared to accept. Yet league sources say that didn’t stop Riley, with a smile and a burst of his usual gumption, from capping the presentation by proposing that James re-sign with Miami for a nominal number to give Riley serious latitude to retool the roster after the Heat’s humbling five-game defeat to San Antonio in the 2014 NBA Finals. It wasn’t totally clear in the moment, sources said, if Riley was serious or just being glib. The proposal, either way, was greeted with silence … and James soon returned to the Cavaliers on a two-year, $42 million deal.
For whatever reason, James hadn’t ever been a max player at that point of his career, and he was dead set on changing that. For the Heat to try and convince him to take less knowing how important he was to the team was undoubtedly the wrong call to make.
Today, Pat Riley is known as the guy who does whatever it takes to chase a title, but it doesn’t mean he hasn’t made mistakes in the past.
Unlike Harden and the 76ers this year, the idea of accepting less money to give the team flexibility was met with major resistance from LeBron’s camp and it’s no wonder why.
Since leaving, Bron has won two more championships and continues to be among the game’s best players at 37 years old.