LeBron James won't rule out returning to play for Cleveland someday, but admitted in an interview with GQ magazine that owner Dan Gilbert's letter to fans on the night James left the Cavaliers gives him "a lot of motivation" for when he and his new Miami Heat teammates play his former club.
In an interview to be published in the September issue of GQ, James told writer J.R. Moehringer that "if there was an opportunity for me to return [to Cleveland] ... and those fans welcome me back, that'd be a great story."
But James, who announced on July 8 that he would leave the Cavaliers as a free agent to sign with the Heat, said of Gilbert's late-night letter: "I don't think he ever cared about LeBron. My mother always told me: 'You will see the light of people when they hit adversity. You'll get a good sense of their character.' Me and my family have seen the character of that man."
James added: "It made me feel more comfortable that I made the right decision."
Gilbert did not immediately respond to The Associated Press' request for comment
Moehringer interviewed James three times in a 19-day span -- twice before and once after his announcement.
The story looks at the weeks leading up to and just after his July 8 announcement on ESPN -- on a show titled "The Decision," which was widely panned. James said he wouldn't change anything about how he made his decision, or how he told the world about it.
James told GQ: "I understand that a lot of people would be hurt" in Cleveland by his decision, but also said that growing up, he and his friends from Akron didn't always like Cleveland. Akron is about 40 miles south of Cleveland.
"It's not far, but it is far," James told GQ. "And Clevelanders, because they were the bigger-city kids when we were growing up, looked down on us. ... So we didn't actually like Cleveland. We hated Cleveland growing up. There's a lot of people in Cleveland we still hate to this day."
James said he'll remain anchored in Akron. "I'm going to spend a lot of the summer here," he said. "This is my home. Akron, Ohio, is my home. I will always be here. I'm still working out at my old high school."
And he said Cleveland fans were "awesome," but didn't take back his comment late last season that those around him were "spoiled" by his play.
"I love our fans. Cleveland fans are awesome," he told GQ. "But I mean, even my family gets spoiled at times watching me doing things that I do, on and off the court."
The night of James' announcement, Gilbert said he believed James quit on Cleveland during the 2009
and 2010 playoffs. Gilbert was ultimately fined $100,000 by the NBA
for what commissioner David Stern said were comments that fell into
the category of being "a little extreme."
In the GQ article, James took exception to the "quitter" tag.
"Every night on the court I give my all, and if I'm not giving
100 percent, I criticize myself," James said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.