AKRON, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James is home and he’s not leaving again.
The NBA superstar said he intends to play the rest of his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team he returned to last month after four seasons in Miami.
When he re-signed with the Cavs to a two-year, $41 million contract that included an option after one year, there was speculation he would one day test free agency again. The contract 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 winning two NBA titles, was welcomed back with a homecoming event fit for a King.
Nearly 25,000 people, some of whom waited in line for six hours and many of them wearing James jerseys, were on hand in InfoCision Stadium on the University of Akron campus, not far from where the 29-year-old bounced his first basketball.
James was back and the city that helped raise him welcomed him with open arms. 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, who was joined at his news conference by several kids. “I’m not gonna sit up here and say it’s not. To know you can inspire so many people from the youth to I heard I got a grandma’s club with 200-plus members. To know you can do things for people, give them hope, give them inspiration. It means a lot to me. I understand I’m a role model. 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 back home and he realized it was time to return.
“It just hit me,” he said. “Sometimes you just have a feeling. You realize what’s going on and what’s happening. It just hit me.”
During a 15-minute interview session — his first since announcing his return to Ohio — James touched on a number of subjects, including new Cleveland coach David Blatt and the possible addition of All-Star forward Kevin Love, who is expected to join the Cavs in a trade from Minnesota later this month.
James won an Olympic gold medal with Love at the London Games in 2012 and he’s looking forward to playing with him again.
“I’m going to be very excited to have him,” James said. “I don’t really care about the 26 (points) and 12 (rebounds). I care about the basketball IQ. His basketball IQ is very, very high. I had an opportunity to spend 32 days with him on the 2012 Olympic team. It’s funny. I always told Kevin Love, `You’re very good, man.’ He always thought I was blowing smoke. I always told him he was going to be a reason why we won the gold medal, and he played a huge role for us. So I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully it happens and everything is done right from a league-rules standard. He’s a great piece.”
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