LeBron James (6'8''-SF-84) squeezed his mom's hands, the way he did as a kid.
Moments before being honored again in his hometown, where they still love him and always will, James stood among family members and friends. With the days in this summer of summers dwindling quickly, this was another moment to savor. So as he waited to be introduced, James hugged his mom, Gloria, around the neck, took out his phone and snapped their picture.
He was home.
"I know this place," he said, "and it knows me."
Fresh off leading the U.S. men's team to a gold medal at the London Olympics, James was praised Sunday during a minor league game for his recent basketball accomplishments an MVP award, NBA title and the gold and for giving back to Akron, where his "Wheels For Education" initiative has provided inner-city kids with supplies, programs, mentors, and above all, hope.
"I was one of these kids," James said. "It means everything to me to be able to give back. I have a passion for it. I love seeing kids smile, and for them to have someone who can lead them. For me to be in this position and being able to help and give back, means a lot."
James received a warm ovation from the crowd of 3,843 more than double the average attendance when he walked onto the infield at Canal Park, home of the Double-A Akron Aeros, during the middle of the eighth inning escorted by Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic.
As James reached the area in front of the pitcher's mound, infielders for the Reading Phillies lined up on the grass between first and second base and gawked at the superstar.
It was also going according to plan before a malfunctioning microphone caused several anxious and awkward moments.
Plusquellic's comments kept cutting out over the ballpark's speaker system, allowing two anti-James fans, one of them wearing a Cleveland Browns jersey, sitting a few rows behind Akron's dugout to shout "traitor" and other insults at James, who seemed unsure of what to do as the delay dragged on and stadium personnel scrambled to find a new microphone.
When it became apparent James would not be able to address the crowd, he posed for pictures and then left the field, slapping hands with a few Reading players who leaned over their dugout railing to greet the All-Star, who was mobbed by fans as he made his way up the aisle.
It was somewhat poetic, James going in one week from stepping onto a gold-medal podium with his teammates on the world's largest stage to a mix-up inside a minor league ballpark where he grew up and where Thursday's postgame entertainment will include midget wrestling.
Before taking the field, James retreated to a dusty stairwell corner with large rakes leaning on one cinder-block wall and reflected on his spectacular summer, a three-month whirlwind of awards that began with his third MVP trophy and was capped by a second gold medal.
James told the Associated Press he would like to play in a fourth Olympics. He has not yet informed USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo of his intentions, but the 27-year-old said he'd like to step inside the five rings one more time.
"We haven't had that conversation," James said. "But if I'm healthy, I did the math and I'll be 31, and if I have the opportunity to be out there, I will do it. I love it. I love being a part of it and representing my country. I don't know what may happen in four years, but it would be great to be back out there again. Definitely."
Since winning gold, James said he hasn't heard from any members of the immortalized 1992 Dream Team, which scoffed at the idea that this year's U.S. Olympic team could beat them.
"Nah," he said. "I don't expect to hear from any of them."
James was the U.S. team's best all-around player in London, doing whatever coach Mike Krzyzewski needed while leading the Americans to their second straight gold. He was virtually unstoppable, just as he was in carrying the Miami Heat to an NBA championship in June.
In doing so, he silenced those critics who wondered if he could ever win the big one. James is on top, and he plans to stay there.
"I want that feeling again," he said of winning his first title.
James doesn't know if being a champion and the only player other than Michael Jordan to win an MVP, an NBA title and Olympic gold in the same year will change the way he's viewed. Since announcing his decision to leave Cleveland as a free agent two years ago, he has been cast as the villain, reviled outside South Florida perhaps more than any athlete in memory.
Some fans have moved on. Some can't. Some never will.
James once succumbed to the pressure produced by the constant condemnation. He's not bothered by it any longer.
Love him or hate him, James is only going to be himself.
"I don't even get involved with that anymore," he said. "I don't look for it. I don't shy away from it. I just kind of roll with what's going on. For me, and it started before last season, I came in with a different mindset and a different attitude and it didn't matter if you believed in me or not, I was still going to be how I was and stay true to who I was and who I am.
Acibadem Universitesi Istanbul (TBL) tabbed experienced 34-year old American forward Jason Maxiell (201-118kg-83, college: Cincinnati). He played recently at TNT Ka Tropa in Filipino PBA league. In 2005 New Jersey Flyers selected him as second overall pick in USBL draft. The former University of Cincinnati standoutis in his twelfth (!!!) season in pro basketball. Maxiell's team won UAE Federation Cup in 2016. He has played also professionally in China (TianJin Steel), NBA (Detroit Pistons... [read more]
Acibadem Universitesi Istanbul (TBL) tabbed experienced 34-year old American forward Jason Maxiell (201-118kg-83, college: Cincinnati). He played recently at TNT Ka Tropa in Filipino PBA league. In 2005 New Jersey Flyers selected him as second overall pick in USBL draft. The former University of Cincinnati standoutis in his twelfth (!!!) season in pro basketball. Maxiell's team won UAE Federation Cup in 2016. He has played also professionally in China (TianJin Steel), NBA (Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets) and United Arab Emirates (Al Ahli). Let's have closer look into Maxiell's outlook:
He possesses the combination of good size and advanced strength. Maxiell's armspan combined with his leaping ability enable him to play much taller than his 6-7 height and he is explosive around the basket.
Dragic scores 21 and Heat stun Rockets, 109-103 - 22 hours ago
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The way the Miami Heat saw it, this was a reward. Goran Dragic (6'3''-PG-86) had 21 points and eight assists, Wayne Ellington (6'4''-G-87, college: N.Carolina) scored 18 off the bench and the Heat - saddled with one of the worst records in the NBA - overcame another triple-double from James Harden (6'5''-SG-89, college: Arizona St.) to beat the Houston Rockets 109-103 on Tuesday night. Dion Waiters(6'4''-G-91, college: Syracuse) scored 17, Tyler Johnson had 16 and James Johnson added 15 f... [read more]
The way the Miami Heat saw it, this was a reward. Goran Dragic (6'3''-PG-86) had 21 points and eight assists, Wayne Ellington (6'4''-G-87, college: N.Carolina) scored 18 off the bench and the Heat - saddled with one of the worst records in the NBA - overcame another triple-double from James Harden (6'5''-SG-89, college: Arizona St.) to beat the Houston Rockets 109-103 on Tuesday night. Dion Waiters (6'4''-G-91, college: Syracuse) scored 17, Tyler Johnson had 16 and James Johnson added 15 for the Heat, who trailed by a point midway through the fourth quarter before putting the game away with a 20-5 run. "I'm glad to see our guys get rewarded finally for all the work, but that doesn't guarantee anything," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We talk about it all the time. You keep on putting in deposits, to the team, to the work, continue to work to get better ... trust that process." Harden had 40 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the Rockets (32-12), his 13th triple-double of the season. He shot 12 for 30 from the field and got his triple-double with an assist to Montrezl Harrell (6'8''-F-94, college: Louisville) with 12.6 seconds left, an uncontested dunk with the Heat simply waiting for the clock to run out. Harrell had 13 points for the Rockets, who got 12 from Patrick Beverley (6'1''-PG-88, college: Arkansas). "They played hard and they beat us," Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said. "There's not much else to say." Hassan Whiteside (7'0''-C-89, college: Marshall) added 14 points and 15 rebounds for Miami in a game that had 19 lead changes and 15 ties. Dragic found Ellington for a corner 3 with 1:41 left to give Miami an 11-point lead - the largest either team had to that point. The Rockets turned it over on their next possession, James Johnson got a runout dunk and the Heat (12-30) soon finished off the win. "We got open shots. We just missed them," Harden said. "We gave ourselves a chance, especially in that third quarter. Fourth quarter we didn't play as well as we need to." Courtesy of: kentucky.com
Mavericks edge Bulls 99-98 for third straight win - 22 hours ago
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Wesley Matthews (6'5''-G-86, college: Marquette) made a go-ahead 3-pointer from the wing with 12 seconds left, and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Chicago Bulls 99-98 on Tuesday night for their first three-game winning streak of the season. Six players scored in double figures for the Mavericks, including all five starters. Harrison Barnes (6'8''-F-92, college: N.Carolina) had 20 points, Seth Curry (6'1''-PG-90, college: Duke) added 18 and Dirk Nowitzki (7'0''-F-78) finished with 10 points... [read more]
Wesley Matthews (6'5''-G-86, college: Marquette) made a go-ahead 3-pointer from the wing with 12 seconds left, and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Chicago Bulls 99-98 on Tuesday night for their first three-game winning streak of the season. Six players scored in double figures for the Mavericks, including all five starters. Harrison Barnes (6'8''-F-92, college: N.Carolina) had 20 points, Seth Curry (6'1''-PG-90, college: Duke) added 18 and Dirk Nowitzki (7'0''-F-78) finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Dallas trailed 98-96 after Jimmy Butler (6'7''-G/F-89, college: Marquette) made a long jumper over Matthews with 23 seconds left, but Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle decided against a timeout and Deron Williams (6'3''-PG-84, college: Illinois) drove into the lane before kicking out to Matthews for the 3. Chicago had one last chance, but Dwyane Wade (6'4''-G-82, college: Marquette) missed a potential game-winning jumper from the corner on his 35th birthday as time expired. Butler finished with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds for the Bulls, who had won two in a row. Robin Lopez (7'0''-C/F-88, college: Stanford) scored 21, and Wade had 17 on 8-for-21 shooting. Wade's fadeaway jumper gave the Bulls a 94-90 lead with about 3 1/2 minutes left, but they were unable to close out Dallas. Chicago has dropped four in a row against the Mavericks, including a 107-82 loss in their first meeting of the season. Chicago played without forward Taj Gibson, sidelined by left ankle soreness. Paul Zipser (6'8''-G/F-94, agency: BeoBasket), a second-round pick in last year's draft, started in Gibson's spot and finished with five points and three rebounds in his 13th game of the season. Gibson, averaging 12 points and 7.3 rebounds, could return Friday night at Atlanta. He had played in every game this season. Dallas put together a 15-4 run spanning halftime to open a 64-51 lead on Barnes' turnaround jumper with 8:38 left in the third. But Chicago kept chipping away at the deficit, and Lopez's three-point play off a pass from Butler trimmed the Mavericks' lead to 76-74 heading into the fourth. Williams had 11 points, nine assists and six rebounds for Dallas, and reserve J.J. Barea scored 12 points. Matthews went 3 for 5 from 3-point range and finished with 11 points. Courtesy of: freep.com
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