Hooper: LeBron held up his end of the deal, his partner did not

Money was provided, until it wasn't

Alex Hooper
July 01, 2018 - 9:06 pm

© David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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Blame Dan.

Sure, you can blame LeBron for using his leverage to hold the Cleveland Cavaliers hostage with 1+1 deals, forcing them to bend at his will. That was the price to play the game.

No employee should be held to the will of his employer, forced to move across the third-largest nation in the world at the employer’s self-benefit, but so too is the price to play.

When LeBron James became bigger than the Cleveland Cavaliers, he did not have to return home. Sure, ‘legacy’ dictated that he finish the story, but he did not have to. He could have been successful elsewhere.

James flipped the script, and for the first time in American professional sports history, the businessman became the business, man. Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers became merely a partner. Unfortunately for the investor, he had already burned a bridge in this partnership, and had to build a bridge back up by giving into the leverage.

A part of the deal for the business to relocate back to where it began was that the man providing the investment keep his cash flow incoming. The investor held up his end of the bargain until he got what he wanted.

Then things did not benefit the investor, because his hunger had already been satisfied. The business agreement had technically been fulfilled. Why would the investor continue to go above and beyond in order to maintain the relationship?

When it came time for the investor to see to his promise and pay General Manager David Griffin what he was owed, the investor balked. The key cog in the begrudging relationship between the business and the investor, the grease to the gears was gone.

That is about as bad as, perhaps, losing your No. 2 in command. #2.

When came a systems failure, no one, or no thing was there to mediate, leaving the business and investor to their own functions to fix a broken operation.

Gilbert reneged on his deal with James, and the man with the actual leverage used it.

The moment Gilbert refused to pay Griffin, as the story has become known, was the moment July 1, 2018 became a possibility again. Gilbert’s handling and enabling of the Kyrie Irving trade set it in motion. The investor was 'pot committed,' a term the investor is surely familiar with, but folded.

The Cavaliers tried as they would to settle the storm, but only fuel was thrown on the fire as the previous gaffe became multiplied by failure after failure to maximize Irving’s value. The first trade was bad, the second was barely better.

It became obvious that those involved in the agreement were not fit to capitalize on James, as he only further proved his value by carrying the remains of the Championship Cavs back to the final stretch.

So James again used his leverage, and found another business partner. One who, in the realm of basketball and entertainment, has seen few, if any, obstacles he could not overcome. The details of a move westward and its cause/effect on James’ family will likely emerge shortly.

What cannot be argued is one thing: James fulfilled his promise within his business partnership, and his business partner soon broke his. Yes, Gilbert spent more than any other owner to get the job done, until he stopped paying. Gilbert got his title and got his renovated arena. Paying more than the other owners was not the agreement, paying 'enough' was.

Partnership over. That's the price of doing business.