By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted May 5 2009 11:17AM
AKRON, Ohio -- LeBron James is a loyal dude.
So when he found out that he won the 2008-09 NBA MVP Award presented by Kia Motors, he decided that he needed to bring the presentation back to the place where it all began.
Fortunately, that's not too far from where it's all happening now.
About a 45-minute drive from downtown Cleveland and Quicken Loans Arena stands a small gym attached to St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron. This is where LeBron made a name for himself. And this is where he wanted to celebrate the pinnacle of his NBA career to date.
Monday was "LeBron James Day" at SVSM. The MVP festivities were a celebration of where LeBron came from and where he is now. It brought together the green and gold of the Fighting Irish and the wine and gold of the Cavaliers.
James took the scenic route to his old high school on Monday. Rather than getting there in the quickest fashion, he took his time and passed by some of the houses he lived in and streets he roamed as a kid in Akron.
"[Akron] made me the man that I am today," James told NBA Entertainment. "I appreciate all those streets. I appreciate all those homes that I moved in and out of. I appreciate those schools that I went in and out of. I appreciate everybody, the whole neighborhood, the friends, the families, the enemies, everybody that I encountered, from a young man to the grown man that I am now, because they helped me become the person that I am today."
When he arrived at SVSM in his convertible Ferrari, he was greeted by a throng of kids chanting "MVP!" He was immediately taken back to his old locker room for a photo shoot with his new trophy.
On one wall of the locker room were the signatures of James and his classmates from the day after they won their third Ohio state championship in 2003. LeBron had signed his name and number with the 3 in 23 doubling as half of the B in LeBron. It looked nothing like his signature today.
In a corner along the opposite wall was James' old locker. In it were three photos of Kobe Bryant and two of Derrick Rose, but none of LeBron. The MVP seemed unfazed by who the current locker owner chose to idolize though, not letting anything bother him on this day.
After taking some photos with his new hardware, LeBron was joined by Cavs coach Mike Brown and his Coach of the Year trophy, which is significantly smaller than the MVP trophy. "That's not right!" Brown exclaimed.
"It's a player's league," someone reminded him.
After the photos, LeBron moved to an adjacent room for an interview with NBA Entertainment. As he talked, the second "MVP!" chant of the day could be heard through the walls.
Eventually, LeBron made his way into the gym for the presentation. It was kind of like a wedding, with people from different stages in LeBron's life gathered together in one room to celebrate the day he joined hands with Wilt, Kareem, Oscar, Larry, Magic, Michael and all other past MVPs.
LeBron's loyalty is not restricted to just a chosen few.
On one side of the gym sat the school's students and faculty. On the other side sat James' teammates and coaches with the Cavs. And in the middle sat his closest family and friends. LeBron made sure to acknowledge them all and explain to the audience how much they helped him along the way, saving the most touching acknowledgements for his mom, Gloria James, and his girlfriend, Savannah Brinson.
After the presentation, LeBron had hugs for his former teachers, photos with and autographs for current SVSM students, and of course, a few more interviews. He took the cameras past the trophy case that held his old hardware and walked down to the end of the hall to take a look down at the football field where he was once an all-state wide receiver.
He was wearing a designer suit, Ferragamo shoes and a Rolex watch, and he had just been acknowledged as the best basketball player in the world. But it's been just six years since LeBron roamed these halls as a high school kid who had no idea what was in store for him.
As he made his way back to the gym, a hungry LeBron stopped at the vending machine in the cafeteria and bought himself a bag of candy. You could almost imagine him doing the same in 2003 after a long practice under SVSM coach Dru Joyce.
After his teammates, coaches and most of the crowd were long gone, LeBron was still on the court where he first became a basketball sensation, fooling around with his sons, LeBron and Bryce. Finally, he made his way outside, where another throng of students surrounded the Ferrari.
As he was serenaded by another "MVP!" chant, LeBron got in a drove away. Their hero was gone, but they know that he'll be back.
Monday was a day to celebrate. Tuesday, LeBron and the Cavs will get back to work. And maybe a couple of months from now, both Cleveland and Akron will be able to celebrate the presentation of another trophy to their favorite son.
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