Et tu, LeBron? Cleveland the frequent victim of sports’ biggest traitors

American political discourse can easily descend from snark to sarcasm to out-and-out sniping. But stabbing is thankfully rare. Of course, that wasn’t the case not long ago – well, actually, 2,056 years ago Thursday – when Julius Caesar ran afoul of a rascally band of conspiratorial senators. Poor Julie paid the ultimate price, absorbing 23 stab wounds and quickly assuming room temperature. This happened, of course, on the infamous Ides of March, which Shakespeare immortalized in his classic 1599 play “Julius Caesar.”

So as we arrive at the Ides of March – in American terms, the 15th – it’s a perfect time to reflect on the legacy of those sneaky senators who instigated Caesar’s demise. Who are the nastiest modern-day backstabbers?

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Slideshow: Top traitors in sports

Maybe Robert Irsay? Moving vans whisked all the equipment of his Baltimore team 600 miles due west under cover of darkness in 1984, and the Indianapolis Colts were born. So was a blood feud that exists to this day.

Maybe Shaquille O’Neal? The Big Backstabber bolted Orlando for Los Angeles in 1996, and you could argue that the central Florida franchise is still trying to extract the knife.

Maybe Johnny Damon? He was one of the “idiots” who won the 2004 World Series for Boston. But one short year later, he was modeling the uniform of the detested Yankees. Was that another manifestation of the Ides of March – or, in this case, the Idiots of March?

But betrayals in sports also thankfully don’t involve deaths, and by extension there’s less certainty – i.e. there’s more than one version to every story.

Cleveland fans were more than a little upset with LeBron James.
(AP)

Did Walter O’Malley really betray Brooklyn by moving their beloved Dodgers to Los Angeles? Or was there someone else to blame? Brooklynites still smarting from the Bums’ departure insist O’Malley committed no less than treason, but all objective historical reviews point to Robert Moses as the real villain. It was his machinations that forced O’Malley’s hand so that he had to build his baseball cathedral in Chavez Ravine, not Flatbush.

Sometimes, though, perception does become reality as history repeats itself. There are probably no fans who feel more betrayed than those in Cleveland. Art Modell cruelly yanked away their beloved Browns, moving them to of all places, Baltimore, and promptly won a Super Bowl that proved still elusive for Cleveland. The local basketball franchise has had its heart ripped out, twice, in the ensuing decade. As if being double-crossed by Carlos Boozer didn’t sting enough, the Cavaliers would be then abandoned on the road to South Beach by one of their own in “The (Infamous) Decision.”

So, knowing that a legion of players, coaches and owners have stabbed their teams in the back, we invite you to change into your toga, slip on your sandals and see if any of your favorite villains achieved infamy on the list of our top traitors in sports.

The list:

Terrell Owens vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Carlos Boozer vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton vs. Lance Armstrong
Bobby Petrino vs. Atlanta Falcons
LeBron James vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
See more traitors

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Updated Tuesday, Mar 13, 2012