When LeBron James left the Cavaliers for the Heat as a free agent, I was disappointed, along with much of the country.  I would have loved to see him win a title with his hometown Cavs.

However, I have been surprised at the amount of backlash against not only LeBron, but the NBA’s new Holy Trinity as a whole.  If you listen to some radio shows, it sounds like LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosch coming together is a great sin against humanity.  We simply can’t have all of the NBA’s stars gravitating to a handful of teams, can we?

This strikes me as very odd.  The ultimate goal in team sport is to win a title.  These three players put themselves in prime position to win a title.  If there are no other teams that can challenge them (at least in the East), is this their fault?

In an era where players (and agents) seem to enjoy squeezing every last dollar out of their teams, it’s worth noting that the three players did not sign the “max contracts” they could have signed under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.  They sign for a bit less (albeit still for stunning amounts) to allow the Heat a bit of flexibility to sign a few more players and still stay under the NBA’s salary cap.  It’s not as if the Heat could throw unlimited money at the three players – they still had to creatively work them under the cap.  Among the deals they made was jettisoning 2008 #2 overall pick Michael Beasley for a relative pittance to free up cap space.

Remember a generation ago when Michael Jordan was playing for signficantly below his market value so that the Bulls could sign and retain players who could help them win a title – such as the ever-colorful Dennis Rodman?  Of course, the much-loved Jordan was glorified in the press for doing this – another sacrifice by the ultimate team player.  If baseball’s Albert Pujols signs an extension with the St. Louis Cardinals for less than his stratospheric market value, he too will be portrayed as a team player who is doing his part to help the Cardinals get back to the World Series.  Even in the NBA, we see aging stars sign cheap deals toward the end of their careers in an attempt to chase a ring.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that LeBron handled his departure gracefully.  The ESPN special was a bit much, even if it did raise money for charity.  Can you imagine Albert Pujols or Peyton Manning doing this?  Of course not.

Cavaliers owner  Dan Gilbert could have chosen to take the high road, but decided to get his hands dirty with an open letter than was extremely critical of James, including allegations that he gave up during the playoffs.  Other observers were equally appalled that Gilbert dared to use the Comic San Serif font for his letter (yes, I’m serious).  In any case, Gilbert’s letter served to further stoke the fires.  Gilbert may not have liked LeBron’s exit, but the fact of the matter is that LeBron was within his rights to leave – that’s the essence of the concept of free agency.

You can choose to dislike James for his decision – but don’t dislike him for working with his friends to form a super team.  They are simply trying to achieve the ultimate team goal.  It’s not impossible for another team to challenge the Heat with a similar super trio – they simply need to find a few stars hungry enough for a title that they can sacrifice a few bucks along the way.