By Rhonda Campbell
There aren’t a lot of big towns in Ohio and even those pale in comparison to cities like Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles which is all the more reason why great athletes like LeBron James, people who were born and raised in Ohio may still be loved by so many from the Buckeye State. To be sure, filled with small towns like Akron or not, Ohio has certainly gifted the world with more than its fair share of talent. In the music field there are The Ohio Players, the Zapp Band, the O’Jays, the Clara Ward Singers, Lakeside, Slave, Gerald LeVert, The Isley Brothers, Norris Turney, Heatwave, Bootsie Collins, etc.
Ohio is also the birthplace of great achievers like Orville Wright of the Wright Brothers, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Halle Berry, Dorothy Dandridge, Rita Dove, R. L. Stine, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Steven Spielberg, Doris Day, Erma Bombeck and Toni Morrison. Ohio’s great athletes include golfer Jack Nicholas, Archie Griffin, Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose (born in Cincinnati, the same city he played professional baseball in), Ken Griffey, Jr., Larry Csonka, Madeline Manning, Jack Lambert, Ben Roethlisberger, Ezzard Charles and the unsurpassable Edwin Moses. However, former Boston Celtics standout, John Havlicek, may well be the only other athlete from Ohio to make it to the NBA and consistently perform at all-star levels.
Small Town Kid Goes Big
According to CNN Money’s 2006 Best Places To Live report, Akron, Ohio is a small town of approximately 215,000 residents. The average median income for the city is $43,338. Akron is a city surrounded by small towns like Youngstown, Canton, Elyria, Lorain and Parma. Into this small town mix rose up LeBron James. It is easy to see how he became so widely known throughout his birthplace.
Eight years into his professional sports career, LeBron James is proving to be one of the best athletes in the National Basketball Association (NBA). On December 30, 1984, LeBron James was born in Akron, Ohio, a small town about 40 miles South of Cleveland. LeBron is the son of Gloria James and Anthony McClelland. While LeBron was still playing basketball in high school, his mother could be seen wearing jerseys with “LeBron’s Mom” printed on the back. While her son played on the court, she also waved signs with LeBron’s photo pasted on their front. Gloria James was and is a proud mother and rightfully so.
Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary High School is where LeBron James got his secondary education. At the same time that he was gaining his academic footing, LeBron was making a name for himself on the basketball court. At reported at JockBio, LeBron’s hero was Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls. One of his greatest supporters was his mother and his Pee Wee football coach Frankie Walker and the Walker family. LeBron lived with the Walkers when he was in the Fifth Grade.
That change brought stability to James’ life. By the time LeBron James entered high school at St. Vincent-St. Mary, his basketball finesse was gaining the attention of sports enthusiasts outside of Akron. ESPN started to cover the team’s games. Michael Jordan invited James to work out in games that he, the former Chicago Bulls standout, put together with other professional basketball players.
In Pursuit of National Championships
The stakes were high for LeBron. His name was being heard around the world and he hadn’t even graduated from high school yet. There was a lot on the line, pressure to deliver. Speculation was that LeBron had even signed a $90 million dollar contract with Nike, this even before he had laced up his sneakers and played his first game in the NBA.
Deliver LeBron James did. The young man from the small town of Akron, Ohio was ready for the noise, all the hoopla and the tremendous expectations that awaited him. He signed with Ohio’s Cleveland Cavaliers right out of high school. His first year in the NBA he averaged 20 points per game. Five years into his professional basketball career, James earned his first Most Valuable Player title. (By his eighth year in the league, he would earn two more MVP titles.)
Then on May 22, 2009 while playing a nail biter against the Orlando Magic, James hit a remarkable three-point shot with only one second left in regulation. Orlando seemed certainly poised to go up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Playoff series. The play, as called up by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ head coach, Michael Brown, was for LeBron to go inside for a lob. James cut but he was well covered. His high basketball IQ took over and he stepped back. His teammate, Mo Williams, passed him the ball. With the Cavaliers’ Quicken Loans Arena, aka “The Q”, at a hush, LeBron leaped into the air. It was a perfect release. The unbelievable happened all in one second; the ball went in.
The Q erupted. Ohio’s own had done it. After putting up 32 points in 43 minutes, James put up one last shot and won the game. That night and the following day, sports journalists around the world talked and talked about the one second shot. It wasn’t long before it became clear that LeBron James had made history . . . again.
It wouldn’t be the last time LeBron would show up big for his team in the playoffs. June 6, 2012, LeBron scored an impressive 45 points against Ohioan John Havlicek’s former team, the Boston Celtics. One game later, LeBron James’ new team, the Miami Heat, won the Eastern Conference Finals and found themselves headed to the NBA Finals for the second year in a row, as many years as LeBron has been on the team.
It wasn’t long before media outlets headed to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the location of the first two NBA Finals games to watch LeBron James and his teammates, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller and Shane Battier take on Oklahoma Thunder’s Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, Derek Fisher, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha. The guy from the small town is poised for the noise, ready to take on all comers. It’s been this way for him for a long time, almost as if life prefers that he embrace big moments and show up big . . . the same as life has preferred that other great Ohioans do.
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