Cleveland throws homecoming party for LeBron James
Cavaliers welcome NBA superstar with open arms, as he reiterates his plan to end his career in his hometown
LeBron James attracted a crowd of nearly 25,000 to his official homecoming to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and saved the biggest moment for last.
Surrounded by family, friends and fans in a city welcoming him home, James delivered a line he had been waiting to say for four years. "I love you," he told the crowd of nearly 25,000. "I'm back."
James then dropped the microphone and left the stage as fireworks exploded above InfoCision Stadium, illuminating the Akron sky.
The NBA superstar, who re-signed with Cleveland last month, said he intended to play the rest of his career with the Cavaliers, the team he returned to after winning two NBA titles in Miami.
When he signed a two-year, US$41 million contract that included an option after one year, there was speculation he would test free agency again. The deal made Cleveland fans nervous, but they can now relax.
"I don't plan on going nowhere," James said. "I don't have the energy to do it again." James, who returned to northeast Ohio after four seasons with the Heat, was welcomed back with open arms.
Fans waited in line for six hours for a prime seat for the event on the University of Akron campus, not far from where the 29-year-old James bounced his first basketball.
The welcome-home party coincided with James' annual "I Promise" campaign for area children sponsored by his family foundation.
"It's pretty amazing," said James. "To know you can do things for people, give them hope, give them inspiration - it means a lot to me.
"I understand to these kids I'm more than a role model. I'm a superhero to them. I'm a father to them. I'm a brother to them, whatever the case they want me to be on that particular day."
Although he was playing for the Heat, James said his heart was always home and he realised it was time to return.
"It just hit me," he said. "Sometimes you just have a feeling. You realise what's going on and what's happening. It just hit me."