Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert didn’t know how fans would react to what is now simply known as: “the letter.”
He does now.
Gilbert’s angry, frustrated and emotional letter criticizing LeBron James after the star chose to leave his hometown Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat generated a flood of support. A team spokesman said the team received thousands of emails and phone calls, including some from fans offering to help Gilbert pay the $100,000 fine handed down by NBA Commissioner David Stern.
It was one week ago the controversial team owner released a letter on the team’s Web site ripping James’ decision as a “shameful display of selfishness and betrayal.” The same letter contained unflattering descriptions of James like “narcissistic” and “self-promotional.” Further, Gilbert vowed to win an NBA championship before “the self-titled former king.”
Critics and pundits wondered what the reaction to Gilbert’s statement would be. Well, in Cleveland at least, it’s been almost entirely positive.
In the NBA headquarters, however, Stern was not as proud of Gilbert’s loyal reaction.
He fined Gilbert Monday morning and called the owner's comments “a little extreme.”
The next day, a number of Cleveland fans offered to pitch in and help Gilbert pay the penalty imposed on him by the league. Gilbert issued the following statement of thanks:
“The humbling offer by so many is another reflection of the strength of Cavs fans and the people who live and work in this region and are always the first to step up and have each other’s back,” Gilbert said. “I will pay this fine myself, but would be grateful and highly appreciative for any fan who redirects the dollars they kindly offered to contribute towards this fine to the Cavaliers Youth Fund, which will positively impact our region’s kids through the numerous local charitable groups the Cavaliers Youth Fund supports.”
Congratulations, Cleveland. You may have lost one of the best players in the league, but least you have an owner you can all rally behind.