Time heals all wounds -- or at least it appears to have done so for Miami Heat president Pat Riley.
The legendary basketball executive was reportedly fuming seven years ago, when LeBron James took his talents back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, with whom he later won his third NBA title.
Riley apparently didn't much enjoy the taste of his own medicine after he'd successfully lured James away from his hometown Cavs in July 2010 -- the infamous "Decision." LeBron later claimed that a Heat executive, whom he declined to identify, told him was making the biggest mistake of his career by returning to Cleveland, sparking rampant speculation of a falling out with Riley.
If it was in fact Riley who had the choice words for LeBron, he seems to have softened in the subsequent years. Last week Riley suggested that James would be welcome with open arms should he ever choose to embark on a second stint in Miami.
Appearing on the Dan Le Batard Show, Riley invoked an interesting metaphor to hint that a reunion was unlikely but not entirely impossible -- at least from his end.
"I would leave the key under the doormat if he would call me and let me know that he's coming," Riley said. "I would do that, but I doubt very much that key … That key is rusted now.
"LeBron, look, he's 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, it was four years in the Finals -- four years of excitement, two world championships. ... It was the best time for the Heat. So I wish him nothing but the best, and if he ever wanted to come back, I'll put a new shiny key under the mat."
Riley, 76, said in a book published in 2018 that he was "absolutely livid" for several days after James rejoined the Cavaliers, a move that Riley said dashed his hopes of building a dynasty that he apparently thought could have lasted a decade or more.
James, now 36, has two more years remaining on his deal with the Lakers, setting up a potential date with free agency after the 2022-23 season. He has previously said he'd like to play alongside his son Bronny, now a sophomore in high school, in the NBA.