King James the traitor?

CLEVELAND – As run after Cleveland Indians run crossed home plate, the sellout crowd of 44,608 at Jacobs Field roared and screamed and celebrated the glory of their Indians and the misery of the hated New York Yankees.

All, that is, except at least one – LeBron James, perhaps the most famous and beloved Clevelander of them all.

"I know a lot of people might not like hearing me say that, but I think everyone knows I've been a Yankee fan my whole life," James told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "They have to deal with it."

James watched Game 1 of the American League division series, a rousing 12-3 Cleveland victory, from prime seats while sporting a Yankees cap and rooting for the Bronx Bombers.

When James, who was raised about 30 miles south of Cleveland in Akron, was shown on the right-field big screen at Jacobs Field, he was met with light-hearted boos and catcalls from the Jacobs Field crowd.

The 22-year-old James has been a regional treasure since he burst into national stardom as a high school sophomore.

His popularity was cemented when he became the No. 1 pick of the long-dormant Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003. In June, he led the Cavs to the NBA finals, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

His image was painted on the side of buildings, a giant replica of his jersey was hung from a downtown skyscraper and many of these same booing fans wore his No. 23 on their backs.

His decision a year ago to re-sign with the Cavs instead of head to a major media market was greeted with a collective sigh of relief.

But now? How could a Northeast Ohio kid be a Yankees fan?

James admits he's always been a front-runner. During his teen years, that meant latching on to the NBA's Chicago Bulls, the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and, indeed, the Yankees – all of whom captured multiple championships. He's sworn allegiance to more college teams (Ohio State one year, Florida State the next) than anyone can remember.

The Indians may have reached the World Series in 1995 and 1997 (when James was 10 and 12), but the Yankees won it all in 1996 and 1998-2000.

In a sense, he's just being true to himself even if he isn't being true to the region, but many would call such switched geographic allegiances sports bigamy. Of course, rooting for Cleveland teams requires a particular personality – none of the major professional sports teams have won a championship since the NFL Browns in 1964.

Not that it sat well with one former Indians great – crusty old Bob Feller.

"I'm going to a Cavaliers game and sit right by their bench, wearing a Detroit Pistons cap. Let's see how LeBron likes that," Feller told the Plain-Dealer.

Say this much for LeBron, he isn't backing down. It would be easy to flip-flop allegiances and blame it on youthful indiscretion. Or just watch the game from home.

But there was James, down in front at the Jake, getting taunted and heckled as his team got crushed.

"Go to New York, then," screamed one fan from the right-field stands as his face appeared on the big screen.

"No, no, please don't," corrected another with a laugh.

Everyone around them quickly agreed. LeBron the Yankee fan may be difficult to stomach. But LeBron the Knick would be much worse.