LeBron James’ tenure with the Miami Heat didn’t end all that amicably, as he and team president Pat Riley reportedly had a falling out after James left for the Cleveland Cavaliers in free agency during the summer of 2014. Still, Riley said last week in an interview with Dan Le Batard on the “Le Batard And Friends” show that he would “leave the key under the mat” if James ever wanted to return to the Heat.
That response got quite a bit of attention for a number of reasons, in no small part because it appeared to constitute a pretty clear violation of the NBA’s tampering rules. So it seemed like Riley would be hit with a fine from the league.
The NBA released its decision on that front Wednesday.
“The NBA announced today it has fined Miami Heat president Pat Riley $25,000 for violating the league’s anti-tampering rule,” the league wrote in a release. “The fine is in response to comments Riley made during a June 4 radio interview regarding the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James.”
Toward the end of the interview, Riley was asked whether he would “leave the key under the mat” as part of a question that mentioned both James and Dwyane Wade. But the question was actually meant in reference to Wade, who became a part-owner of the Utah Jazz this year. Riley evidently misunderstood and thought the question referenced James, who is under contract with the Lakers for two more seasons.
“I would leave the key under the doormat if he were to call me and you know he’s coming,” Riley said. “I would do that. But I doubt very much — that key’s rusted now. LeBron is one of the greatest of all time. And for four years down here, if we want to go back and remember what those four years were like — four years in the finals, four years of excitement, four years of riding two championships. The LeBron, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Udonis (Haslem) — all of them. This was the best time for the Heat. So I wish him nothing but the best, and if he wanted to come back, I’ll put a new, shiny key under that mat. This will just get me fined for tampering.”
James could conceivably leave the Lakers if his son, 4-star 2o23 guard Bronny James, is drafted by another NBA team before the elder James retires. Otherwise, it seems highly unlikely that he would give much if any consideration to the Heat in free agency.