By ditching the Cleveland Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat, LeBron James leaves behind a disheveled franchise, a pissed-off owner and throngs of heartbroken fans – some of whom booed him at Carmelo Anthony’s wedding this weekend. Still, Bron Brown isn’t the first athlete to leave a city in mourning.
To prove it, we scrounged up a list of athletes who left their teams either through free agency or a trade and left a trail of tears behind. Grab a box of Kleenex, this isn’t going to be pretty.
The Player: Wayne Gretzky
The Reaction: Gretzky was already a king in Edmonton. So when the owner of the team faced financial troubles and traded him to the L.A. Kings for a slew of draft picks and a pile of money, hearts all over the city broke. People even called for the Canadian government to get involved and block the swap. To this day, it’s still referred to as the biggest trade in the history of sports.
The Reaction: Stop us if you’ve heard this one: Brett Favre retired and then came back and… O.K., O.K., so it’s a little hard to keep track of all the times he’s done it. But this trade happened after his first retirement. He wanted to rejoin the Packers but the team had moved on. So they agreed to trade him to the Jets instead, leaving many of the franchise’s fans in shambles.
The Transaction: Signed a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1995 after four seasons with the Orlando Magic.
The Reaction: Big-time player leaves a small-time market for the riches of a major city and the hopes of winning an NBA title. Sound familiar? Shaq was LeBron before LeBron and he sent the Magic organization into a tailspin which sentenced their fans to almost ten years of recovery. Good thing the second-coming of Superman isn’t planning to leave them anytime soon.
The Reaction: A.I. was the heart and soul of the Sixers’ franchise for a decade, epitomizing the toughness and resilience of a city full of sports fans that hadn’t had much luck when it came to sports. So imagine what it must have felt like when Iverson ripped their hearts out and asked to be traded. He’s since returned — but it just isn’t the same, was it Allen?