words & images // Zac Dubasik
There are roughly 40 miles that separate Akron and Cleveland – a straight shot on I-77. And what a different those 40 miles make. Even a year removed from The Decision, there’s still bitterness when it comes to LeBron James in the streets and gyms of Cleveland. But tonight in Akron, it was all love.
In front of a packed gym, James, along with high school teammates, Sian Cotton, Dru Joyce III, Willie McGee and Romeo Travis were inducted into St. Vincent-St. Mary Athletic Hall of Fame. Their team, chronicled in 2009’s More Than a Game documentary, took home three state titles, and a national championship in 2003. If you haven’t seen the film, and didn’t already know, their bond was apparent tonight, as the five often laughed and interacted throughout the evening. LeBron’s speech perfectly summed up their relationships with each other, as well as his relationship with his school:
“I’ve always said this was the best time of my life – high school. When you are in high school, you take these days for granted. When you’re a freshman, you look at your freshman year and say, ‘Aww man, I’ve got three more years, so we good.’ Then you get to you sophomore year, and you’re like, ‘OK, we’ve got two more years, we good.’ You do the same thing through your junior year. Then, when you’re a senior, and the last high school game you’ll ever have is for the National Championship, and it was the last game we’d play together, I think then we finally realized at that point that we had took our high school days for granted. We can’t ever get those days back. They were special days for all of us. We will always see one and other, no matter where life may take us, and no matter where life may carry us. It don’t take a ceremony to get us together. We’re together all the time. Sian was over my house yesterday. Dru and Rome were out in San Diego last week. … We’re always together. It doesn’t take a ceremony or for you all to put us in the Hall of Fame to get us together. We definitely appreciate this. St. Vincent-St. Mary is the greatest school that we have in Ohio, and probably the best school that we have in America. No matter where I travel, no matter where I go, I will always represent this school. “
While LeBron may be the reason we are so familiar with this high school squad, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony may be best remembered for what happened when one of his teammates took the mic following their speeches. Dru Joyce III, who now plays professionally in Germany, then left the stage, took a knee, and proposed to girlfriend Lanae Patton. She said “Yes.”
Tonight’s event capped off an exciting few days in the Akron area for LeBron. Monday he launched his new Wheels for Education program, which takes the place of his long running King for Kids Bikeathon. And earlier today, he dedicated the new $240,000 clubhouse his foundation helped fund at a local Boys and Girls Club. LeBron may no longer play his home games 40 miles away, but there’s no doubt he still considers Akron home.