Free agency

Miami Heat fans try to cope in uncertain times

Heat fans are dealing with uncertainty as LeBron James' decision awaits.
Heat fans are dealing with uncertainty as LeBron James' decision awaits.
C.W. Griffin / Miami Herald Staff
WEB VOTE If LeBron James leaves for another team, how should Miami Heat fans react?

Economic uncertainty impacts every person a different way. Sometimes it affects one person several ways. Men like Warren Buffet capitalize on it, Jim Cramer obsesses about it and yells accordingly, and others try to avoid it if they can.

The LeBron James economy, where uncertainty reigns as the chief export, has affected people like Jonathan Hernandez in as many different ways.

Add Hernandez to the list of people who are being asked where James will be playing this fall. He does not know any secrets and does not have any inside sources, but neither do many of the media personalities who have debated James’ next step since he opted out of his contract with the Miami Heat two weeks ago.

NBA Insiders have racked up followers thanks to the uncertainty, but Hernandez and others have been affected in worse ways.

Just after 7 p.m. on Wednesday, as James discussed his future with Pat Riley in Las Vegas, Hernandez stands behind the counter at Sports Fan-attic in Dolphin Mall, looking up at a wall of James jerseys with an uncertain future.

The jerseys have been one of the store’s most popular items for the past four years, along with the James socks, posters and shot glasses the store also sells. But now they just hang there, even after the store’s recent 25 percent-off special.

Down the hall, a James poster stands in a Nike outlet and a Fathead wall decal depicting the Heat star is the centerpiece of an official Miami Heat store. They could come down at any moment, but for now they remain untouched, just like the jerseys.

They look the same as they did when James was under contract with the Heat, but customers look at them differently now, an indication of their place in limbo, before walking by.

Each day that goes by without definitive news and each meeting with Riley that ends without a commitment by James makes the jerseys a riskier investment, so they sit waiting for news with everyone else.

One eventually makes its way to the counter in the hands of Diego Herrera, a Heat fan from Miami. He’s about to buy it. But then he pauses.

“Do you think he’s going to stay?” Herrera asks Hernandez.

“I think he will,” Hernandez responds.

Neither knows what is going on in the concurrent meeting in Vegas. They do not know whether James will emerge any minute with a decision. They do not know that he will leave and say nothing. They know nothing. But they cannot wait.

Explaining his rationale, Hernandez casts a glance at the TVs that returned to talking heads after the end of the Argentina-Netherlands World Cup soccer match.

“A lot of TV people are hyping Cleveland up, but why would he leave?” Hernandez said.

Questions on top of questions is the only way to discuss what has not happened.

Herrera hesitates and returns to the racks. Five minutes pass. He comes back and goes through with his purchase.

At the official Heat store, Glen Vaude Kouter chooses to neglect the James memorabilia and opts for a simple hat. He said he thinks James will go to Cleveland, but Vaude Kouter will remain a fan. The hat is a safe choice in a time of uncertainty.

Herrera admits he does not know what is going to happen, but he knows that everyone will want a jersey if James does come back. He is gambling that happens, but even if it does not, Herrera says he will not be ashamed to wear the jersey.

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