AKRON, Ohio — LeBron James finally
thanked his fans in Cleveland on Saturday, making his first public
appearance since he left the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat.
At his annual "King for Kids" charity
bike-a-thon in downtown Akron, James addressed a friendly crowd of
several hundred people who cheered as he took the podium.
"To the city of Cleveland, my fans in
Cleveland, my fans in northeast Ohio," said James, "I want to say thank
you for the last seven years and the years that continue to go in the
Then he repeated the thank you to
Cleveland a second time, as if for extra emphasis.
"So I want to thank the city of
Cleveland, also northeast Ohio, for all the great years that I've had,"
Last week, James came under fire for
taking out a full-page newspaper ad in the Akron Beacon Journal in which
he thanked the city of Akron for its support. The ad contained no
mention of Cleveland, where James got his start in the NBA.
Emotions are still running high among
Cleveland fans who felt betrayed by James, who was revered in that city
After James left for Miami to join
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert sent off a scathing
letter to Cleveland fans vowing to win a title before James does.
But in Akron, at least, James is still
very much loved by the people who watched him grow up. After giving his
brief speech – and without answering any questions from the media –
James hopped on a bicycle and joined about 400 children who received
free bicycles along the one-mile course.
Wearing a red shirt with the word
"Akron" printed on it, James also thanked that city and its mayor for
extending open arms to the player and his family. He said this is the
most precious day of the year for him.
"Because I'm able to give back to the
city that I grew up in, the city that I love," James said to cheers.
"And the city that I will always give back to."
Most fans were pleased to see him,
and didn't understand the vitriol that has been directed at James from
the rest of northeast Ohio since he left.
"This is his home. He's been very
supportive of us in the past," said Tony Morganti, a Cavs fan from
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. "He said he's going to continue to be so, and I
think this just proves it."
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