By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 3, 2010; D03
AKRON, OHIO -- A procession of expensive oversized vehicles, filled with well-paid oversize basketball players, lined up and curled around, forming a semi-circle. Shaquille O'Neal emerged from a large black Diesel truck; Antawn Jamison in a pewter Range Rover. But the hundreds of fans, some of whom had camped out overnight, standing outside of James A. Rhodes Arena at the University of Akron didn't react with boisterous applause until a sleek, black Maybach Zeppelin with beige trim slowly pulled up.
It was impossible to see exactly who was in the luxury vehicle, as the person in the back seat was shielded by a black curtain. But before LeBron James's black loafers touched the ground, the people had already begun to serenade him with chants of "MVP! MVP!" James stepped back toward the trunk, grabbed his gray jacket and slid it over his shoulders, showing no ill effects of the strained and bruised right elbow that has been bothering him in recent weeks.
Then, with his girlfriend, Savannah Brinson, by his side, James entered the same gym that housed the games that grew too large for his high school gym at St. Vincent-St. Mary. The crowd then followed him inside. James, once again, took his town with him.
"I'm just a little kid from Akron," James said on Sunday, after he received his second Maurice Podoloff Trophy and became just the 10th player in NBA history to win the league's most valuable player award in consecutive seasons. He joins an exclusive fraternity of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan and Steve Nash.
"Those are guys that I looked up to growing up, or I've seen old clips of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem and those guys, to be in the same category as those guys is an unbelievable feat for myself," said James, who averaged 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and a career-high 8.6 assists and joined Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only players with at least 2,250 points, 650 assists and 550 rebounds in a season. "It's humbling. I'm a very humble person. I used to talk to my friends all the time about being a part of the NBA and wanting to be really good and having an NBA uniform, but to have two MVP awards at age 25. I never thought that I'd be able to do that just seven years into the NBA."
James became the second-youngest player in NBA history to win back-to-back MVPs (Abdul-Jabbar was 24) and received 116 of 122 first-place votes. He bested Oklahoma City Thunder forward and District native Kevin Durant by 596 points, which is the second-largest margin of victory behind his teammate O'Neal, who won by 799 points in 2000.
But after leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to the best record in the NBA for the second year in row, James said his focus goes beyond individual accolades.
"I can't name anything that I haven't done, individually, in my short career that's bigger than an NBA championship. That's my only goal. This is the closest I've ever been with the team that we have and we're looking forward to the challenge," said James, who scored 35 points with seven rebounds and seven assists the day before to help his team take a 1-0 lead over Boston in their best-of-seven conference semifinal. Game 2 is Monday at Quicken Loans Arena. "Until I win, I won't go down as one of the greatest players to ever play this game."
As he did the year before, James decided to make his award a moment that his home town, nearly 30 miles south of Cleveland, could share with him. Last year, James had the event at his old high school. He thought about having it outdoors at Akron's new football stadium, but decided to make other plans with thunderstorms expected to hit the area. "I didn't want it to rain on my parade. We didn't want that to happen," James said.
About 3,000 people filled the gymnasium, including James's Cavaliers teammates, his former high school teammates, closest friends, associates and family, including his mother, Gloria. His two high school coaches, Dru Joyce II and Keith Dambrot, now the head coach at Akron, were also in attendance. James acknowledged those near and dear to him, but had a special message for his two young sons, LeBron Jr., and Bryce. "You guys are the world to me," James said. "Every day that I wake up, I understand that I have not only myself to stand for, but also you two guys and I refuse to let our last name [be] put down because of my actions."
There was some anxiety for the fans, who made pleads for James to stay, amid the constant chants of "MVP! MVP!" James will become a free agent this summer and will be the most high-in-demand player on the market. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert attempted to quell concerns when he said, "I think LeBron James's best days are ahead of him, despite everything he's done and I'm sure he'll be back here next year, with MV3."
But when asked how he could leave behind the love and affection of the fans who know him best, James left a somewhat cryptic response. "No matter what might be ahead of me, throughout my whole life, I will never be gone from this," he said. "Akron, Ohio is my home. It will always be remembered. Akron, Ohio is my life. I love this city."