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Major Professional Athlete Defections

When LeBron James left the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2010 and became a free agent, many teams tried to gain his services. A media frenzy ensued and in the hours leading up to the announcement of James’ new team, speculation reached a fever pitch. Finally, he ended the suspense and announced that he would sign with the Miami Heat.

The Cavaliers were forgotten in the chaos and without him they became just another team, at one point losing 25 games in a row and, according to analysis from one sports investment banker, are now worth $100 million less than the $375 million that owner Dan Gilbert paid for them.

Many other sports teams have seen their fortune go from good to bad when a star athlete jumps ship, and though they may not have been as costly as the James-Cavaliers defection, the team suffers nonetheless and may take years to recover, with some feeling the pain more than once. These defections are a direct result of the player’s choice, instead of them being traded from team to team, so these moves were basically all up to the players.

Click ahead to see some of the most painful defections in sports history.

By Daniel Bukszpan, Special for CNBC.com
Posted 18 Feb 2011

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