By Rich Winter

      As the NBA draft and free-agency period is upon us, LeBron James opting out of his contract has created quite the buzz in the sports world.

      I think it is so interesting to see the different type of free agency that is in the NBA these days.

     I grew up in the 1980's and it would have been unholy for Larry Bird of Magic Johnson to switch teams in the middle of their careers. For me, a Bird fan, I don't think I could have ever forgiven him if he had left, and I certainly would never have purchased anything Larry Bird had he gone to another team. 

      LeBron changed all of that four years ago when he left Cleveland. While LeBron's first move created quite a stir, and in my opinion changed the landmark of free agency forever.

       Now stars like LeBron can and have shown the propensity to pick and choose the teams that best fit their needs.

      So, what does this mean for fans of the Miami Heat and fans of LeBron James.

     If he leaves Miami, will his legions of fans follow? What about the Heat fans, will they be disgruntled like the Cleveland fans have been or should they expect the superstar that came to win championships is now leaving for more golden pastures?

     Was talking to a good buddy of mine, Chad Whirlwind Soldier today and I asked him the question of, 'would he be a LeBron fan no matter where he went?"

    The answer was a little surprising.

     Whirlwind Soldier suggested that he became disenfranchised with the NBA after reading the story about Tim Donaghy, the former NBA ref that went to prison for fixing games.

     Whirlwind Soldier feels like if the NBA was really fixing games and trying to create scenarios with extra games and extended series' then he has absolutely no loyalty to the NBA or to any team.

     "I'm a LeBron fan and I'm going to stay a LeBron fan no matter where he goes," was his utterance.

     Sports have changed in the past few decades. With players having no real commitment to fans or cities or teams, should fans be forced to have the same allegiance to teams that can't hold onto their best player?

     I'm a Raider fan and over the last few years, I can't think of a single jersey of any of the players that I would have worn proudly. I'm not jumping ship and looking for a new team, but I loved Charles Woodson in his early years. Although I never bought a Green Bay Woodson jersey, I did follow and cheer for the man.    

     I say the LeBron fans will follow the man wherever he goes. I don't see LeBron as a player from that instance, I see him as a brand.

     So, moms and dads, if you have a young one that loves LeBron, be prepared to buy a whole new round of Bron stuff, should he decide to leave.