AKRON, Ohio — LeBron James may not add another NBA MVP trophy to his collection this year.
He’s got an award, though, that just might mean a little more.
On Tuesday night, the Cavaliers superstar, who returned to Northeast Ohio last summer after four seasons in Miami, was honoured by his hometown with a distinguished award for leadership, inspiring youth and philanthropic efforts.
James was given the H. Peter Burg Award during the Greater Akron Chamber’s annual meeting held inside historic Goodyear Hall, once home of the Akron Wingfoots, a professional basketball team in the 1930s.
The award, named for the late chairman of FirstEnergy, is given each year to a business or community leader who has served as a role model and enhanced local and economic development.
No person means more to Akron right now than James, who was raised in the inner city and has never forgotten his roots while rising to fame and blossoming into one of the world’s top athletes.
The 30-year-old James has established several youth-related programs in Akron, and the LeBron James Family Foundation has mentored and sponsored thousands of area school kids through his "I Promise" and "Wheels For Education" programs.
On his way to the stage to accept the spiraled glass award, James passed through a line of some of the kids he has helped. All of them wore wine-and-gold T-shirts that said: "Just Another Kid From Akron, Ohio," a phrase James has used to describe his humble beginnings.
Joined by his sons, LeBron Jr. and Bryce, James gave a gracious acceptance speech during which he thanked Burg’s family and the children who have motivated him to give back.
"This award is not mine," he said. "It’s this city’s. It’s these kids. I refuse to let you guys down."
James, too, thanked his wife, Savannah, his mother, Gloria, and his foundation’s employees. The ceremony was attended by Akron’s top civic and business leaders, who saluted James with a standing ovation.
There’s little doubt James has boosted Akron’s image and the esteem of the entire region.
"You can’t put it into words," Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic said of James’ impact. "It’s one of those things you can’t measure, you can’t absolutely explain. We can’t measure every single feeling and put a number on it, but we all feel things about our environment, about family members, about friends. It’s this immeasurable factor that comes into our lives about what makes up happy. And LeBron coming back is such a great story about Akron and Northeast Ohio.
"There’s this old thing you can never go home. Well, you can."