After learning of the news that LeBron James had agreed to join the Los Angeles Lakers I was immediately struck by two thoughts. First, it is clear the city of Cleveland is not allowed to have nice things like championships and great players and second, the Cavaliers are about to lose A LOT of fans.
Without an NBA team to call their own, many basketball fans in Pittsburgh support that team across state lines. While I have personally never been able to cheer for anything that starts with the word Cleveland, there are plenty of Pittsburgh Steelers players who are fans of the Cavaliers too.
However, now “The King” no longer resides in Cleveland, it seems some of those names are ready to switch their support to his new team and defect with him. Le’Veon Bell was among the first to jump off the bandwagon.
y’all can call me a bandwagon all y’all want...lol where LeBron goes, I GO!— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) July 2, 2018
With Ryan Shazier not fan behind him.
Sign me up . I got two teams now. Let’s go Lakers. Let’s go spurs. . No Lie. Don’t @ me. pic.twitter.com/UIZFl6NVRc— Ryan Shazier (@RyanShazier) July 2, 2018
While it appears Joe Haden has showed no signs yet of deserting his beloved Cavaliers, Bell and Shazier are not the only Steelers seemingly prepared to ditch Cleveland in favor of Los Angeles. L.T Walton and Cameron Heyward also look set to become Lakers fans this season.
Without a new contract extension in the next two weeks, Bell will be the Steelers’ version of LeBron next offseason. There will be no third franchise tag and Bell will be a free agent prize more attractive than any other name on the market.
When, not if, Bell signs with a new team, it will be interesting to note how this impacts the fan base. In an era when fantasy football is more popular than ever, how many fans have become members of Steeler Nation based on the performance of one player alone?
Although I am a huge fan of Antonio Brown and would be heartbroken if he left, I could never see myself rooting for the team he joined, even though I would wish him well. As devastated as I was when Rod Woodson left in 1997, I could never bring myself to cheer for him in a different uniform. While some fans claim to have second and even a third team that they like. I am perhaps more old fashioned in believing you have just one team and one team alone in a sport. Players come and go, but the team you follow is for life.
That being said, when Bell lines against the Steelers in his New York Jets uniform next season, will you be supporting him or Pittsburgh?