Cavs Owner Gilbert Makes First Major Public Appearance Since Stroke

Sam Amico

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert made his first major public appearance since suffering a stroke in May, receiving the lifetime achievement award at the Detroit Crain's Business Newsmaker of the Year luncheon Friday.

Gilbert, 58, has been recovering in Michigan and has returned to work at Quicken Loans with the assistance of a wheelchair, cane and support dog.

On Friday, he stood at the podium with help of an assistant after getting to the stage in the wheelchair. He spoke for about 15 minutes, cracking some jokes with no noticeable issues to his speech or delivery.

"It's been long enough where I've already had a baby, it's been nine months," Gilbert told the crowd. 

He then spoke about his business ideals, about creating leaders and taking risks.

"I think we've had the honor of doing that at our family of companies, which is why they could continue in my absence," he said.

Gilbert has been rehabilitating at his home in Franklin, Mich. He gave an exclusive interview to Crain's Detroit Business leading into Friday's event.

"When you have a stroke, here's the problem with it: Everything is hard. Everything," Gilbert told Crain's. "Like you wake up, getting out of bed is hard, going to the bathroom is hard, sitting down eating at a table is hard. You name it. You don't get a break. You're like trapped in your own body."

His left arm has been in a sling -- though it was by his side during his speech Friday.

"I can grab a ball and drop it into a box sometimes," he said. "But not always."

Gilbert received a standing ovation as he exited the stage in his wheelchair.

He has owned the Cavs since March 2005. They have made five appearances in the NBA Finals since then, winning the franchise's lone championship in 2016.

Things have not been so successful lately, as they are on their fourth coach in two seasons, with J.B. Bickerstaff taking over for John Beilein earlier this week. Beilein stepped aside after 54 games and has taken another undetermined role in the organization.

The Cavs (14-40) have not made the playoffs, or really come that close, when LeBron James hasn't been on the team. They return to action after the All-Star break Friday at Washington.