The Akron life and legacy of LeBron James
Since LeBron James' controversial decision to take his talents to South Beach, much attention has been given to the level of venom emanating from his former basketball hometown of Cleveland. Remarkably, the atmosphere 30 miles to the south of Quicken Loans Arena, in James' hometown of Akron, provides a far more intricate opinion of the events of July 8.
Nowhere is this state of affairs more apparent than at Saint Vincent-Saint Mary High School (STVM), James' alma mater (pictured below). The school's still positive feeling towards James was immediately noticeable courtesy of a flier for the LeBron James Bike-A-Thon posted just inside the front door of STVM's Cosgrove Center (both pictured below). The notice was still present despite the event taking place on August 7. Photos from the bike-a-thon are available via this Los Angeles Times article.
The words “He may work in another city, wear a uniform of a different color, but he will always be LeBron James Irish 23” (STVM's nickname is the Irish) were written at the very top of the piece of paper. Further down the flier, a full paragraph of text described the level of loyalty James has continually shown to his hometown.
iFolloSports.com learned that during his recent trip to Akron, James paid a visit to Irish football practice, where he spoke to the team and participated in drills with his former squad.
Those affiliated with the school appear to feel a level of disappointment, but not the utter disdain stemming from folks living along the shores of Lake Erie. A sampling of the STVM community showed a group of people who wish he would have stayed with the Cavaliers and wish he would have handled the announcement of his decision differently, but still very much consider James a significant member of the school's family. A current football player even made the statement that at STVM, “he (James) is just a guy.”
The short drive to James' reportedly 35,000-square-foot mansion, on Idlebrook Drive in Bath Township (pictured below), provides a similar attitude to that of his high school alma mater. Upon making a left turn onto Idlebrook from Crystal Lake Drive, motorists are greeted with a yard sign planted by James' across-the-street neighbor (pictured below).
The text listed above a James' poster states “We support who you are wherever you are!”
A right turn into James' outer driveway is met by the sight of an indoor guard station (pictured below). The station is manned 24 hours a day by off duty area police officers. The policeman on duty at the time of my visit explained how James had spent very little time at the home since announcing his decision to sign with the Heat. The officer also volunteered that James and his family were very kind and generous people, who are well liked in the neighborhood. He did acknowledge that James has received multiple threats of violence since July 8, but overall, life around the mansion was extremely calm.
Further discussion with a small sample set of the Akron citizenry yielded a prevailing viewpoint. Most folks were disappointed that he left, but not overwhelmingly disgusted. The only real point of angst involved the manner in which he chose to make his future plans known. It was very interesting to note how feelings towards James had changed so significantly after a mere 40 minutes of freeway driving.
While my findings only represented a small portion of the population, it can safely be maintained that LeBron James' loyalty to his hometown is a feeling that is very much reciprocated by his fellow Akronites. Particularly those closest to the life he has led most recently.