“I think everybody needs to get a grip.”
That was Pat Riley’s message to Miami Heatfans, the national media and the players within his own organization. It was a move that most would deem either a scare tactic or a scared tactic. I for one choose to look at it as both.
Riley’s fear of losing the championship relevance that the team cultivated over the past four seasons was enough motivation for him to break his yearlong media slumber with a televised 55-minute press conference that was quoteworthy enough to make people think that this was a one-time event, instead of the annual occurrence that it is. And in true “Godfather” fashion, he took the time to poke at everyone whose basketball names were supposed to be as big as his.
Coach Erik Spoelstra and Dwyane Wade — who Riley called a lifer — got off pretty easy by being told that they would have to reinvent themselves. But LeBron James seemed to get the brunt of the rant, due to his reluctance to publicly commit to the team.
No matter how you slice it, the Chosen One holds all of the cards. Management can speak about their contingency plans as much as they want, but James can make or break the Heat’s future. Riley decided to give everyone watching this very special NBA history lesson:
“The ‘80s Lakers — five championships in 12 years. So seven years, they didn’t win. The Celtics were a great team for 12 years… Three wins. Nine losses. Jordan’s Bulls? They lost for years. San Antonio… They won five titles in 17 years.”
Why does any of this matter? Because the Miami mastermind knows that James is a basketball historian, so he attempted to reason with true championship logic. His talk of staying together if the guys have the “guts” not to run out the door was nothing more than a loud whisper through the camera lens that said, there’s no need for you to go looking for another perfect situation just because you faced adversity.
James can take that as a direct shot at legacy talk that would make him look like a team hopper. Legacy talk that he — as a whole — considered “stupid” during this year’s NBA Finals.
Truth is, we all know that the best player in the league can often find himself being sensitive, so who knows if these statements will have a positive effect. But who other than Riley could get away with trying to scare a man with the same speech that he probably used to get him to South Beach?