AKRON– After winning his second NBA Championship and accepting another MVP trophy, LeBron James brought it all back to his roots.
“I can’t worry about what everybody says about me. I’m LeBron James, from Akron, Ohio, from the inner city. I’m not even supposed to be here,” said James in a nationally-televised interview.
That he would be loyal to his hometown comes as no surprise to those who have known him since he was a young boy.
“I think LeBron is always an Akron kid, you know, small city, you know,” said Audley McGill of the Summit Lake Community Center in Akron.
“He’s come from the inner city. We always have done that anywhere we go. Akron is always represented,” said McGill.
Outside of the community center is a basketball court with LeBron’s logo.
McGill said the superstar basketball player will still stop in unannounced.
“Most superstar athletes cannot walk around in different areas of the city and just be a regular person. That’s just Akron gives him that,” said McGill, adding, “I don’t think he can do that in Miami but he could do that here.”
At the Ed Davis community center, a summer basketball camp is under way. A new generation of young basketball players are learning the game underneath a banner of LeBron James.
For them, James is an idol, someone who grew up in the same community as them and has gone on to be successful.
Aaron Henry coaches them and says LeBron has helped reward the kids not only for their dedication to fitness, but for their commitment in the classroom as well.
“With all the pressure he has on him, all the eyes, the naysayers, the backers, that’s a lot of pressure and that young man has handled it well,” said Henry adding, “He’s very down to earth.”
There are, of course, the naysayers.
Even in Akron there are people who were cheering for the San Antonio Spurs to beat James and the Miami Heat.
But, in his hometown there is an appreciation for James that goes both ways.
“Everybody in Ohio still loves LeBron really, especially Akron and everybody still has a lot of love for him, still appreciates him,” said Andrew Bobinski.
Outside of Bobinski’s, at ‘Next’ shoe store on Market Street, people started lining up on Wednesday to be among the first to get LeBron’s new shoes when they are finally released at 8 a.m. Saturday.
“He has so much going for him and he still appreciates Akron and still shouts Akron out in front of the whole world, on a world stage,” said Bobinski.