PHIL LONG / AP Enlarge
AKRON - LeBron James looked out at the sea of faces from his past and present. There's no knowing if they'll be in his future.
Scanning an audience which came to celebrate his second straight runaway NBA MVP award, James pointed out his former high school coaches and best friends. He praised his mom, Gloria, who somehow raised him after giving birth when she was just 16. He had a special message for his girlfriend, Savannah, and their two young sons, LeBron Jr. and Bryce.
James thanked them all and then singled out one special group.
"I'm sorry," he said yesterday, halting the ceremony at the University of Akron's James A. Rhodes Arena. "But all my teammates, you have to come up here with me, man."
He was soon surrounded on the podium by Shaquille O'Neal, Mo Williams, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team he led to 61 wins during the regular season and is determined to take all the way to an NBA title.
Each of the Cavs hugged James. A few players used video cameras to record the moment.
"My name may be put on the front of that trophy," James said, pointing at the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. "But these guys have a lot to do with it."
Dominating the voting just as he dominated on the floor all season, James became the 10th player in league history to win consecutive MVP awards, and he made sure to share it with the people closest to him, the ones who can never imagine him playing anywhere but Cleveland.
"Since I was a kid, I always said I'd find a way to put Akron on the map," James said. "It will always be my home, and it will always be my life."
James' comments seemed slightly ominous for a player on the eve of a big decision. He has given few clues about his intentions when free agency opens on July 1, but James almost sounded as if he was preparing to say good-bye.
"Akron, Ohio is my home," he said. "Akron, Ohio, will always be remembered. Akron, Ohio, is my life, and I love this city."
Later, he was asked how he could leave "all this."
"This is home for me," he said. "I love this place to death. Every day I wake up I understand that I'm not just carrying myself, but I'm also carrying this city to bigger and better heights. No matter where life may head me, I'm never gone from here."