CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) - David Letterman was not a fan of LeBron James’ decision to leave Cleveland.
He made it known throughout his monologues in the summer of 2010 and again in 2011 after James and the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals.
Letterman did not hide that fact when James appeared on CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman” Tuesday night.
James had to answer a few questions about leaving Cleveland before Letterman moved on to the congratulatory portion of the interview.
“Now that you’ve gotten this out of your system are (you) ready to go back to Cleveland and play some ball?” Letterman asked James right after he sat down.
James laughed off the question. “Right now, I’ll play no ball right now,” James said.
Letterman told James how critical he was of him and his decision to leave the Cavaliers.
“I was on you, I was furious at you,” Letterman said. “You don’t care do you? I just thought the opportunity was there (for you to say) ‘By god, I’m going to stick it out in Cleveland and lift that city.’”
James took it in stride.
“I heard all of that too from you,” James responded. “I thought we were friends. This is my fifth time on here with you David.”
Letterman smoothly segued into the reason James appeared on the show – to congratulate him on winning his first NBA championship – albeit with the Heat and not the Cavaliers.
“You must have gotten tired of punks like me wising off,” Letterman said.
James has been the subject of jokes and jeers not just from Letterman but fans across the country who rooted against the Heat. James told Letterman he sensed that has started to change.
“It has changed some,” James said. “And the best thing about is was were were able to come together as a team through all the adversity we faced in the last two years.”
Letterman also asked James if winning the NBA championship would’ve felt better had he done it in Cleveland or Miami?
“The feeling that I had on Thursday, I could have been on Mars and won that,” James said. “It felt amazing. It was better than I expected.”
The Finals victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder ended the string of jokes at James’ expense.
“I went from being ringless on Wednesday night to, you know, having a ring on Thursday night,” James said. “So it changed that.”
During the segment prior to the interview with James, Letterman spoke at length about his criticism of James during a witty monologue.
“A couple of years ago LeBron James started playing basketball in the NBA when he was 12. It was crazy. They drafted him right out of the boy scouts and he went to his hometown team – the Cleveland Cavaliers,” Letterman said. “Now, I don’t know if you know anything about Cleveland but things are not as good in Cleveland as they once were. They’ve lost a lot of industry, people are moving out of Cleveland, they’re losing population, they’re losing business.”
Of course the sympathy from Letterman didn’t come without a punchline.
“Now the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that’s the only thing (in Cleveland), well, I won’t say the only thing,” Letterman said. “They have the Indians and they have the Browns.
“But it’s the second level Browns. It’s like the JV Browns. It’s not the original Browns.”
He went on to explain why he was so angry at James’ defection in 2010.
“So LeBron James comes along and he lights up Cleveland and everybody’s excited,” Letterman said. “They think ‘Oh my god. How about this? We’ve got LeBron James. Something to live for. Something to live for.’ And so they followed his amazing career with the Cavaliers. And by the way, before they had the franchise there, it’s not an accident, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a Cavalier in Cleveland.
“So then LeBron James announces that he’s going to Miami and the city went crazy. And you know what else? I went crazy because I said ‘Why is he doing this? He could be a hero for the rest of his life, stay in Cleveland and fight the good fight. Give those people, the good people of Cleveland, the Clevelanders a reason to get up every morning. Give them a reason to feel good, something to look forward to.’ And he was steadfast. He made a very difficult decision and I was on him like a cheap suit.”
Letterman ended the diatribe by explaining how his producers feared that after the Heat won the NBA championship that James would not come on the show because he was so critical of the now three-time MVP.
“I was on him and on him and on him and everybody here said ‘Well we’re never going to have LeBron James back on the show because you, Dave, were shooting your mouth off and now look at this, he’s champion of the world and do you think he needs to come back and listen to your nonsense,’” Letterman said. “Well, guess what? He’s a big enough guy and he’s here tonight. How about that.”
When the show was done, it was James who got the last laugh.
Letterman ended the interview by congratulating James before handing him the Larry O’Brien trophy which James kissed and said “That’s my baby.”