(AKRON, Ohio) — LeBron James was welcomed back to Ohio in a lengthy homecoming rally in Akron.
The Friday night event came nearly a month after he announced that he would be returning home to Ohio. The general manager of the Cavaliers, the mayor of Akron, the president of the University of Akron, and a choir from a local Boys & Girls Club were all involved in the ceremonies before James even hit the stage.
The homecoming at InfoCision Stadium is just one of the ways that the Cavaliers are currying favor with their fans. Shortly after James announced his return, the team confirmed that they will not be raising season ticket prices.
The celebratory hoards, many of whom waited for hours to get a seat at the event, mark a dramatic turn from four years ago when Cavaliers fans burned his jersey and started riots when he decided to leave for Miami.
The fans weren’t the only ones to react poorly: Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert posted a shockingly harsh open letter to the team’s “former hero” on the night that James announced his move “with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up.”
Now, the 29-year-old superstar has said that he is happy to move past the bitterness and come back to the place where he once belonged.
“Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart,” James wrote in his essay for Sports Illustrated announcing his latest decision.
“If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently, but I’d still have left. Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids.”
“I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when.”
James — whose personal tagline touts his Ohio roots by saying he’s “just a kid from Akron” — started his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first draft pick in 2003.
He stayed with the team until 2010 after declaring free agency and announcing his move to Miami in a highly publicized ESPN special The Decision. He stayed with the Heat until becoming a free agent at the end of this past season.
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