LeBron James returns home to accept MVP
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St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio) alum LeBron James was welcomed back to the home of the Fighting Irish to receive his first NBA Most Valuable Player award in the school's gymnasium Monday. The presentation, which was restricted to St. Vincent-St. Mary students and faculty and members of the local and national media, marked another milestone in James' career as a professional basketball player. This season James averaged 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Upon hearing that he had received the MVP award, James requested that the ceremony be held at his alma mater.
The event was kept very quiet, but Monday morning word started to spread that the Cavaliers players would be arriving sometime during the day. Students peeked through the gym doors throughout the day to see what was going on, and many were surprised to see a stage and a brand-new SUV at one end of the court. The headmaster, Mr. David Rathz, announced over the PA system that the Cavaliers and NBA officials would be in attendance for a very important news conference.
Students were buzzing with excitement and anticipation to see James and his teammates in the school for the MVP Award presentation. They were also ecstatic that such an event would be held at their school.
"I think it's a great achievement, and it's great that he's accepting his trophy here," sophomore D.J. Williams said.
"He's a homegrown star, and St. Vincent-St. Mary helped him build his character," said sophomore Nick Codrea. "So now he takes that character all around the world with him and gets to show what our school is all about. I think it shows his true character and loyalty because even though he's beyond high school, he still takes care of the people who took care of him when he was younger."
"It's great because he comes back here to share it with us," freshman Evan Gorbach mentioned. "I'm excited to see it."
Although James practically moved all over Akron for most of his childhood, he always found stability at St. Vincent-St. Mary.
"This school helped me become the man I am today, standing up here receiving this award, so I'd like to thank you," James said.
James pulled up to St. Vincent-St. Mary in his Ferrari amid hundreds of fans who lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the NBA's newest MVP. M-V-P chants started in the parking lot while James entered the school through the back door. The rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers soon arrived and were greeted with cheers from students in the Student Center.
As students entered the gym for the presentation, some received Nike T-shirts that read "WITNESS MVP."
After waiting nearly 30 minutes, LeBron James stepped onto the stage along with Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry, owner Dan Gilbert and head coach Mike Brown. The crowd exploded into cheers and the students gave them a standing ovation. Joe Tait, the Cavaliers' radio broadcaster, was the master of ceremonies for the presentation. Gilbert started the series of short speeches by speaking about James as a multidimensional athlete and role model for today's youth and James' own sons. Ferry talked about how hard James pushed himself and his teammates during this season. Brown somewhat echoed Ferry and talked about how hard James and his teammates had worked during the offseason and during training camp.
"This award, yes, it is an individual award, and yes, it has LeBron's name on it but this group of guys shows that it is more than just one player," Brown said to the crowd. "Working with this young man for the last four years has taught me a lot very quickly throughout those years. LeBron has definitely brought out the best in me, and hopefully it can continue, so let's go get one tomorrow."
James followed Brown, and M-V-P chants rained down on him once again as he strode across the stage toward the podium. Students and faculty once again gave James a standing ovation.
"This is something that we dreamed about as kids, you know, being the MVP of the NBA. But then we'd say, you aren't going to be the MVP of the NBA. You won't be an All-Star, you're from Akron," James said.
James talked about his high school coach, Dru Joyce II, who continues to coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary. This season, the Fighting Irish won their first state title since James graduated. James attended the game and spoke to the players beforehand.
"I see Coach Dru right there. I may not have had a biological father around every day to tell me how to dribble a basketball, or how to fold my clothes, or how to tie my shoes, but that man right there helped me do a lot of things that my father would've helped me do, so I thank you for that."
James was asked why he chose his alma mater as the place where he would receive such an honor:
"I felt that it would be more special to me to have it at a place where all my dreams started. You know, I had dreams my whole life but when I came here and played for Coach Dambrot and Maverick Carter, that's when all my dreams started to come true."
James finished answering the media's questions and then taped an interview with ESPN "SportsCenter" anchor Jay Harris. The crowd slowly dispersed, and many students approached James' teammates for autographs and questions. After his "SportsCenter" interview, James hugged and chatted with faculty members and students about his prestigious award.
"This award may be mine, but you know, if you've ever seen the move "Friday," it's both of ours, but I'm gonna keep it at my house. You know, it's yours, too, but I think I'll keep it at my house."
Nick Shook is a junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio.
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