Jim Gray says Dan Gilbert was way off-base blasting LeBron James for leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, and will regret his words.
Gray hosted the ESPN show in which the free-agent basketball mage-star announced his decision. It was Gray's idea to have James do the show and give sponsor proceeds to charity.
Afterwards, Gilbert, who owns the Cavs, posted an open letter to fans on the team's website ripping James and told The Associated Press he believes James didn't play up to his abilities in Cleveland's second-round playoff loss to Boston.
"He quit," Gilbert said. "Not just in Game 5, but in Games 2, 4 and 6. Watch the tape. The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar. ... People have covered up for him for way too long."
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In the , Gilbert called James "self promotional" and "narcissistic," and depicted his actions as "cowardly" and "a shocking act of disloyalty."
But Gray begs to differ, telling "Early Show" co-anchor Chris Wragge Friday, "This is totally over the top. I mean, he didn't say any of these things when he was trying to recruit him to come there. So, if he felt that way, he was being disingenuous. I think he's gonna regret those words.
"I like Dan Gilbert. I think it's an emotional outburst that is really inexplicable and -- he's upset. And you can understand it. You can understand the fans being upset and disappointed.
"But (James) put them on the map. (Gilbert) wouldn't have owned the team. Gordon Gund wouldn't have sold the team (to Gilbert). Dan Gilbert wouldn't be an owner if it wasn't for LeBron James.
"So, I think Cooler heads will prevail and he'll probably regret those words for a long, long time."
Gray also defended the way James chose to let the world in on his choice, after many fans and media members criticized it. "I'm not offended by it at all," Gray told Wragge. "So you're probably asking the wrong person. I thought it was terrific.
"(James) commanded it and he was able to do it and tens of thousands of kids are gonna benefit from it. It was a huge financial success for the Boys & Girls Club (n Greenwich, Conn., where the show was held). They're gonna do very well.
To see the entire Gray inverview, click on the video below:
As for the unprecedented hype surrounding James' free agency, Gray said, "He's a once-in-a-lifetime player. Yes, the process did go over-the-top, but it's a players' league. And when you have somebody the caliber of LeBron James, you saw what was going on.
"For crying out loud, President Obama commented on this seven times. We've got oil spills, we've got wars, we've got a lot going on, but he certainly was very interested. I don't mean to be frivolous or flip. He was having a good time. But he wanted to see LeBron James play in his hometown of Chicago, so everybody was interested, from the fans all the way up to the top of our country."
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