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Sports Column: Love and heartbreak seen between professional athletes and franchises

Regardless of how long a couple has been together, Valentine’s Day is a national celebration of all things cute, sappy and romantic. From the chocolate to the overpriced roses and the “Sorry I couldn’t think of anything original to say” greeting cards, Feb. 14 is unavoidable — including for professional sports teams.

Every sports fan has a love story that brings forth emotions as bright as red candy hearts or as dark as chocolate. Every team has an athlete that surpassed or spoiled expectations, and like any lover, those events form the team’s identity.

Here are a few types of relationships that have — and haven’t — worked in the most volatile environment in sports: the NBA.

Just started dating: Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks

This hookup has the perfect, too-good-to-be-true storyline fit for the Big Apple: a smart kid from Los Angeles gets no scholarship offers, uses his brain to get into Harvard, makes his mark on the hardwood, goes undrafted, returns to his home state, then gets claimed off waivers by New York, where he thrills his audience night after night.

There’s truly nothing remarkable about Lin, and that’s what makes him remarkable. A 23-year-old Asian-American who frankly is not the stereotypical basketball player has led the Knicks to five straight victories — without co-stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire — by putting up at least 20 points and seven assists in each game.

New Yorkers have every reason to believe Lin can continue his success once Anthony and Stoudemire return to the floor, but then again, there’s no reason to expect Lin to continue his productivity. After all, he’s not supposed to be that good.

There’s no guarantee this relationship is going to last.

Marriage at its finest: Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks

Nowitzki is one of the few “lifers” remaining in the NBA. He has stayed loyal to one team and has kept the focus on Dallas’ success rather than his personal goals. Even when he did not earn a league championship during his prime years, he kept chugging and put his faith in a franchise that had far too many has-beens and not nearly enough up-and-comers.

What’s so great about Nowitzki is his remarkable consistency, even through tough times. He almost never gets hurt, and when he does, he still plays. His scoring and rebounding figures have stayed steady since his third season in the league.

And while Nowitzki is always one of the top players in the league, his Mavericks stay out of the spotlight. Without any drama or major distractions in Dallas, Nowitzki avoids the scrutiny that comes with playing in a large media market and keeps his focus on the floor.

His reward? The 2011 NBA championship against a high-strung squad, the Miami Heat.

Speaking of which …

The “Maury” Break-up: LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers

James had everything but an NBA championship in Cleveland. He was raised in Northeast Ohio and had the support of family and friends. He had a young squad that was a little disjointed but showed promise in the future. The team’s owner was willing to pay just about anything to keep James’ talents in Quicken Loans Arena.

But King James wanted a bigger crown, and he saw a more promising throne more than 1,300 miles away. He was the two-time defending league MVP, but he couldn’t bring home a championship ring.

So that means nothing was his fault, right?

James bought the lie that ditching his problems was a way to fix them. His on-air break-up with the Cavaliers produced nothing but hurt in Cleveland, while Heat fans perfected the “You are NOT the father!” celebration.

Nowitzki handed James another dose of disappointment while Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert took to Twitter to impart some wisdom equally applicable to basketball and romance.

“Old Lesson for all: There are NO SHORTCUTS. NONE.”

Michael Stainbrook is a junior studying journalism and sports editor for The Post. If you can’t stand the Heat, get out of the kitchen and email him at

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