It's going to be hard for any athlete to top the way LeBron James publicly executed Cleveland basketball last Thursday night. What made the departure seem so distasteful to witness was how unaware James seemed to be about the ramifications of his decision (oh, and the fact that the whole thing was put on TV to begin with, and turned into the equivalent of a bad reality show finale, and that we had to be reintroduced to Jim Gray's weasel smile).
He referred to himself in the third person several times, as if he really was ordering decrees and chopping off the heads of the Cleveland fans personally. He talked about how this was the decision that would make him the most happy, not for once contemplating the effect his words were having on the people he had made happy for the past seven years. He looked somewhat pained to see his jersey being burned almost immediately by angry and heartbroken Cavs fans, yet he still expressed some wistfulness that he hoped Cleveland fans would still cheer for him when (as he so exasperatingly put it) "he takes his talents to South Beach next year". He would have been better off asking the sun not to rise tomorrow.
We were all witnesses that night. To a trainwreck, that is.
Nevertheless, the Bay Area has had its series of messy divorces, many of which have occurred in the modern free agency era, where ego, personality, and money have forced many a team to part with a superstar Bay Area athlete. Here are five of the worst such sayonaras.
This probably doesn't hurt to the Raiders as much as to other fanbases--Moss didn't really belong to Oakland in the way the other four players on this list did to their teams. Still, Moss dogged it in Oakland. He openly skipped practices, feigned injuries, underachieved in general. The most noticeable thing he did as a Raider (for better or for worse) was admitting his constant usage of pot.
In the end, he didn't just get traded away. He got sent to New England for a fourth round draft pick, as the once seemingly innocent Lane Kiffin decided that Moss probably wouldn't report to training camp. That fourth round draft pick eventually turned into John Bowie. John Bowie is now no longer a Raider, so I'm guessing the Patriots came out slightly ahead there.
In his first game with the Patriots, Moss shook off the "rust", logging 9 receptions for 181 yards, and finished the season with 98 catches and a single-season record of 23 touchdowns. In two years in Oakland he managed 102 catches and 13 touchdowns.
Now, Tom Brady is a slight upgrade over Kerry Collins, but come on, Randy, that was cold.
4. Chris Webber (1994 Warriors, sign and trade to the Washington Bullets)
C-Webb fell into Golden State's lap after the Orlando Magic picked him first and subsequently traded him for Penny Hardaway on draft night 1993. He immediately showed his polish as one of the greatest all-around talents to ever pick up a basketball, leading the Warriors back to the playoffs and winning fifty games in the process. Webber would capture All-American honors in the process.
Unfortunately, he almost immediately fell into conflict with his head coach Don Nelson, who wanted him to play out of position as a center and put him in the post as part of his famous small-ball lineups. Ultimately, Webber wanted no part of Nelson's unconventionality and mind games, finding an escape clause in his rookie contract. After one brilliant season, Webber was gone from the Bay, and wouldn't really get his head screwed on straight until he returned back to California as a Sacramento King.
What knocks him down this list a little is that he's shown regret for the way he handled himself under Nelson's tutelage. His final stint in the NBA before retiring was back in Golden State...under Don Nelson. Still, the Warriors would not recover from the trade for nearly a decade and a half (all they received back were Tom Gugliotta and draft picks), not returning to the playoffs until 2007 (when they famously upset the Mavericks).
This one particularly stung, because Giambi was the Athletics captain when he signed this deal. He had just come off two great seasons where he led the Athletics to two playoff apperances and one division title, winning the AL MVP in 2000. He led the team in walks and OBP, and won the SIlver Slugger Award in his final season. He was the ultimate Beaneball player.
Sacrificing that status to follow the money and be just another power grinder on the pinstripes (the team that had JUST eliminated Oakland from the playoffs in dramatic fashion two years running) was a bitter pill for Oakland fans to swallow. A whole chapter on Moneyball was dedicated on how As management could figure out how to replace his production. For a solid seven years he was booed loudly whenever he came to bat at the Oakland Coliseum. Of all the moves on this list, it's the most similar to what LeBron did...taking the easy way out to getting those rings.
Ultimately, As fans would get the last laugh--Giambi would never win a World Series with the Yankees, and he would return to Oakland and was generally embraced by their fanbase.
2. Terrell Owens (2003 49ers, traded to the Philadelphia Eagles)
Hmm, where to start. Well, the touchdown celebrations were cute, although standing on top of the star in Dallas probably was a warning sign of things to coe. He quarreled openly with Steve Mariucci and threw tantrums on the sidelines in two games against his offensive coordinator. When he got traded to the Ravens in the offseason instead of one of his preferred situations like Philly (he'd eventually end up there), he compared his situation to that of Rosa Parks. Oh, and he insinuated on the sexual orientation of his quarterback.
There was nothing that T.O. can touch. The media was more than happy to enable him along the way, but Owens deserves the lion's share of the blame for his narcissism. LeBron has a gigantic ego, but since the hype machine was on as early as his teenage days, could he ever have had a realistic shot at learning humility?
The biggest solace that Niners fans can take is that T.O. has done the same thing at stops in Philadelphia and Dallas. And time has mellowed enough that 49ers fans aren't that opposed to signing him for a farewell tour. At least in that poll. Not this poll.
I doubt very much any Giants fans will have a good thing to say about Kent other than he was very very good. Besides that, he quarreled openly with Barry Bonds, getting into it in the dugout on at least one occasion. He openly spoke out against the steroid era when his teammate was garnering the most flak for being a potential user. And he most famously broke his wrist when doing motorcycle wheelies in violation of his contract, and lied to management saying he injured himself washing his car.
Despite being the best hitter ever to cleanup behind Bonds, Kent was booed lustily upon return dates to AT&T Park, and especially when he joined the Dodgers in the twilight of his career. However, Kent has expressed the desire to retire a Giant. It'll be interesting to see how receptive Giants fans will be at the prospect when it arises (if this thread is any indication, it might take some time).
In the overall sports landscape though, Kent's diatribe still doesn't come close to topping the Summer of LeBron. At least that's one place the self-proclaimed Chosen One can be crowned king.