AKRON, Ohio (AP) — For a chance to see LeBron James, Rodneka Price drove seven hours and stood in line for another six.
“I might cry when I see him,” she said.
James is being welcomed back Friday night by the city where he first bounced a basketball. The NBA superstar is being celebrated with an event expected to draw more than 25,000 people to InfoCision Stadium. James grew up in Akron and has maintained a strong connection with his hometown.
James recently re-signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers after four years in Miami. To show its appreciation, Akron is throwing James a homecoming party to coincide with an annual “Wheels for Education” event hosted by his family’s foundation.
Fans began lining up at 11 a.m. to get a prime seat to see James, the four-time league MVP who hopes to end a 50-year championship drought in Cleveland.
Melissa Rumner and her son, Nick, were first in a long line which wrapped around the stadium on the University of Akron’s campus.
“We had to be here to welcome him back,” Rumner said as 10-year-old Nick stood by wearing one of the white No. 23 jerseys James popularized during his seven seasons with the Cavs. “We’re so happy to have him back.”
Nick was confident James would return to Cleveland.
“I knew he was coming back,” said the red-head, who was counting down the minutes before the gates opened.
Price packed up a car of six people and drove to Ohio for the first time so she could help welcome back James. She said his announcement that he was returning to his home to try and win Cleveland its first championship since 1964 touched her.
“It all makes sense,” she said, wearing a “Return Of The King” T-shirt. “He made a promise and he’s going to stick to it.”