It’s has been 52 years since a Cleveland sports team has brought a championship home. Cleveland sports fans have seen so many near wins, experienced far too many upsets. We all know the stories and even have names for them “The Fumble… The Shot… The Drive… and even a LeBron James heartbreak with “The Decision.”
But, because of this “kid from Akron,” born at City Hospital, that all changed last week.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ historic, comeback win against the Golden State Warriors brings an overwhelming sense of joy to both Cleveland and Akron. Cavs fans celebrated just as everyone expected, immediately taking to streets. The city hosted a parade that brought 1.3 million people from all over the world to Downtown Cleveland.
However, because of James’ contributions to his birthplace, the reception he received from his hometown was truly one fit for a king. Some arrived as early as 10 a.m. for the opportunity to hail him.
The theme of the night… “I’m coming home” and “We are Family.”
With people everywhere: inside Lock 3, along the Main Street, and on top of buildings, the program started about 8 p.m. and included the unveiling a banner of James holding the championship trophy that reads: “I’m home,” a video presentation chronicling James’ journey to the championship, and footage from the championship parade captured by the Goodyear blimp as well as several performances and appearances.
“This is amazing,” said Dru Joyce, who coached James from age 10 years old through high school. “We’ve outdone ourselves here tonight.”
Joyce talked about James return’s home and determination to win. “That determination started in Akron. We need to be proud.” Joyce also said, to fellow Akronites, “Your loyalty and commitment is the reason he’s here. He brought the championship to you.”
More than anything, the event celebrated significant contributions James made to that community.
James’ impact on Akron children is immeasurable. Through a partnership between the University of Akron and LeBron James Family Foundation, 2300 students will receive a full ride to pursue the degree program of their choice. Additionally, as a result of the Akron I Promise Network, 342 third graders made a promise to go to school.
“Courage defines the city of Akron and LeBron James,” said Akron Public School Superintendent David James. “You are their version of Muhammad Ali. You are the greatest.”
“We’re here tonight to celebrate a champion. LeBron epitomizes Akron and Akron epitomizes LeBron,” said Mayor Dan Horrigan, who went on to reveal that Main Street between Market and Exchange Streets is now “King James Way.”
Serving as a great lead-in to his entrance, James – with trophy, mother, wife and children in tow – emerged before the crowd.
“Oh Wow,” he said, fighting to contain his emotions. “You guys are unbelievable.”
He continued, “I had one mission and that one mission was to bring a championship back to Ohio, back to Cleveland, back to Akron. Akron is home.”
James went on to say, the championship is supposed to be here, expressed his love and thanked the children for allowing him to inspire them. Then, before exiting, he said one last thing.
He reminded everyone that Cleveland hasn’t won a championship in fifty odd years, there’s been drought and, “It took a kid from Akron to end it.”