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From 'King' to Public Enemy No. 1

There was 100-percent love for homeboy LeBron James in the state and city he grew up in for the last decade, with not an ounce of hate for Ohio's most popular man.

That dramatically changed at about 8:27 p.m. central time Thursday evening, as James turned his back on his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers and decided to form one of the most-talented trios ever manifested in the NBA.

James drew instant ire and bitterness in a sports town full of both, as he said he's taking his talents to Florida's South Beach team -- otherwise known at the Miami Heat.

There, he will join already-secured superstar Dewayne Wade and blossoming stud Chris Bosh -- who traded in the snowbanks of Toronto for the fine-grained sands of Miami.

Outrage and betrayal were the obvious first feelings emanating out of Cleveland, which has been plagued with many depressing memories of the Browns and Indians and a town which hasn't had a championship since the 1960s.

Minnesotans felt similar negative waves three years ago when their own NBA superstar, Kevin Garnett was traded from the Timberwolves -- a team he led for 10 years -- to the Boston Celtics, thus forming another "Big Three" as he joined Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

But the stab in the heart with a dull dagger is a bit more painful for the fans of Cleveland.

After all, James grew up in the Cleveland area, winning state high school championships, then having his Cavaliers "luckily" draw the top pick in the NBA lottery.

For seven years, James pulled the once-terrible Cavalier franchise up the standings, with the last year even finishing with the top record in NBA and one trip to the Finals during his tenure.

Last year, James became just the third player in NBA history to average 40 points in a series, but still losing it, when the Cavaliers lost to Orlando's Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Now, if James would have bolted out of Cleveland after that series, it would have looked justified.

But fast-forward a year and a playoff series, and now James has gone from God to donkey in Ohio.

Cleveland Cavalier owner Dan Gilbert posted a long diatribe on the team's website, knocking James down as a "coward" and noting that he gave up in the Boston series.

Now, with James' narcissistic and ego-driven behavior of holding an hour "announcement" program shown by the biggest sensationalism-driven channel of ESPN, his once loyal followers of Ohio would sooner see him disappear from their existence forever.

Now, instead of having one of the best teams in the NBA, the rug has been pulled from underneath the Cavalier franchise and they are threatening to push the T-Wolves out of their cellar-dwelling ways and reside in it.

It's a long fall and it hurts -- just ask us T-Wolf fans.

It's almost impossible for a mid-market NBA team to turn it around in two or three years.

Afterall, only seven teams have won NBA championships in the last 25 years and that list includes Boston, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Detroit, San Antonio and Miami.

Dynasties are the norm in the NBA, not the rarity.

The NBA lottery is as big a joke as Lindsey Lohan's career.

There are many problems that have befallen the professional basketball league.

With James deciding on finishing the collusion Wade, Bosh and himself decided in June during a meeting, it does not automatically mean they are destined for an NBA title.

Yes, the trio make up probably the best threesome ever on the same team, after each averaged at least over 24 points per game last year.

But to win a title, a team still has to put five players on the floor and have a decent bench for depth.

As of now, the Heat have nothing but those three.

When the last big three were formed in Boston, the Celtics had built a solid team around Garnett, Pierce and Allen.

Rajon Rondo became an elite point guard and was huge in the playoffs in 2008, while Eddie House provided some long-range shooting.

NBA teams also need some physically-gifted players who are willing to bang in the middle, and the Celts that year had Kendrick Perkins to help fill space in the lane.

What the Heat have now are some elite, slashing-style and point-producing players.

But they need some bombers from outside to take some pressure off them and a few big bodies in the middle to nab rebounds.

As of now, Miami has been linked to names such as Mike James, Keyon Dooling, Earl Watson, Mike Miller and Jason Williams to surround their star-studded trio.

Now, that's not saying Wade, James and Bosh will not form one of the best teams in the NBA -- just that there are yet some problems Miami GM Pat Riley needs to address.

The NBA's salary cap was formed to prevent such movements by superstars like James and Bosh, but those two bypassed the benefits the cap provided -- that is a huge amount of more money.

The way the cap is structured, it allows teams to theoretically keep their superstars by having the advantage of giving them a "max" contract, which in the end, allows them to offer much more money than another team can.

But James left $30 million dollars on the table in Cleveland to sign with Miami, while Bosh left a more "modest" $15-20 million.

Greed didn't play a part in the departure of James to Miami -- well, at least not monetary greed.

The greed came in the form of potential NBA championships -- and that's plural.

James, Bosh and Wade are all still in their 20s, and have the chance to form yet another NBA dynasty -- and each is doing it by taking less money.

But then again, the endorsements the three will now gain will probably easily fill their coffers up to replace what they are leaving off of the lost money in their contracts.

So, there isn't much sympathy from anyone in that regard.

Gilbert's bold proclamation that he "...personally guarantees that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA Championship before the self-titled former 'King' wins one" was probably uttered in an emotional haste, and more than likely will never happen.

But Gilbert may have one of the sides correct, though -- the Heat are not guaranteed an NBA title with the next Big Three.

It's just that the dynamics of the NBA doesn't allow a team like Cleveland to win one, since a player like James comes around to a team like that only once in a lifetime.

That chance has now gone south.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.