Miami Heat fans in disbelief as LeBron James leaves

07/12/2014 12:00 AM

07/15/2014 12:31 PM

Happy Hour wasn’t as joyous as it usually is in kicking off a weekend. Not in South Florida, not on this Friday.

A few hours after fans got word LeBron James was headed back to Cleveland, beer flowed from the taps but the mood was anything but celebratory.

By mid-afternoon, the patio at Bokamper’s in western Miramar had begun filling up as a DJ spun 80’s tunes. Most eyes, however, were affixed on the large televisions hanging over the bar.

Although James has made his announcement through SI.com earlier in the day, some fans were still in disbelief.

“I thought he was going to stay, I really did,” said Bob Oberrieth, a New York transplant who lives in Weston and says he is a diehard Heat fan.

“Now that he’s gone, I don’t see Cleveland going to the Finals four straight years. But the Heat isn’t going either.”

The news broke around lunch time. Most sports bars in the area got the news soon after it appeared on Twitter as televisions are all but automatically tuned to ESPN.

In Pembroke Pines, patrons sat at the bar at Bru’s Room and the Ale House quietly munching on their lunch and glancing at the televisions.

In both locales, the sound was off and conversation muted.

The graphics over highlights of James’ exploits in his four seasons with the Heat taunted those watching.

“Sad, man, just sad,” said Andrew Desir of Miramar as he looked up at the big screen at Bru’s Room. “I honestly didn’t think he was going to leave. I have no idea what the Heat are going to do now.”

News had not yet broken that Chris Bosh agreed to a reported five-year, $118 deal to return to Miami – a revelation that would have been somewhat of a consolation to stunned fans. Dwyane Wade, who reportedly was being wooed by his hometown Chicago Bulls, is also expected to return to the organization he has been with since Miami drafted him fifth overall in 2003.

James, Bosh, Wade and Udonis Haslem all opted out of their contracts last month, with many believing the Big 3 would accept pay cuts to improve the roster. Miami then agreed to deals with free agents Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger.

But without James, a four-time NBA MVP,

can the Heat continue to be a title contender?

“I trust Pat Riley, I really do,” Oberreith said while sitting at Bokamper’s. “But this is absolutely devastating. As far as the Heat goes, this is bad.”

James’ departure is also a crushing blow to a fan base that most definitely has become spoiled.

Miami was at the top of the NBA all four years James played for the Heat. With many games on national TV, the Heat became more than just South Florida's basketball team, but one watched worldwide. Now that James is gone, the Heat’s global brand probably goes as well.

Which, for some, is just fine.

Sitting next to Oberrieth was pal Joe Magnole of Pembroke Pines, a self-described Heat hater who roots for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Magnole had a smile on his face as he chided his buddy.

“Now I can really mess with him,” Magnole said.

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