AKRON, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James looked out at the sea of faces from his past and present. There’s no knowing if they’ll be in his future.
Scanning an audience which came to celebrate his second straight runaway NBA MVP award, James pointed out his former high school coaches and best friends. He praised his mom, Gloria, who somehow raised him after giving birth when she was just 16. He had a special message for his girlfriend, Savannah, and their two young sons, LeBron Jr. and Bryce.
James thanked them all, and then singled out one special group.
“I’m sorry,” he said Sunday, halting the ceremony at the University of Akron’s James A. Rhodes Arena. “But all my teammates, you have to come up here with me, man.”
He was soon surrounded on the podium by Shaquille O’Neal, Mo Williams, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team he led to 61 wins during the regular season and is determined to take all the way to an NBA championship.
Each of the Cavs hugged James before forming a half-circle around him. A few players used video cameras to record the all-for-one moment.
“My name may be put on the front of that trophy,” James said, pointing at the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. “But these guys have a lot to do with it.”
Dominating the voting just as he dominated on the floor all season, James became the 10th player in league history to win consecutive MVP awards, and he made sure to share it with the people closest to him, the ones who can never imagine him playing anywhere but Cleveland.
“Since I was a kid, I always said I’d find a way to put Akron on the map,” James said. “It will always be my home and it will always be my life.”
James’ comments seemed slightly ominous for a player on the eve of a big decision. He has given few clues about his intentions for when free agency opens on July 1, but James almost sounded as if he was preparing to say goodbye.
“Akron, Ohio is my home,” he said. “Akron, Ohio will always be remembered. Akron, Ohio is my life and I love this city.”
Later, he was asked how he could leave “all this.”
“This is home for me,” he said. “I love this place to death. Every day I wake up I understand that I’m not just carrying myself but I’m also carrying this city to bigger and better heights. No matter where life may head me, I’m never gone from here.”
James received 116 of a possible 123 first-place votes to win in a landslide over Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, who was picked first on four ballots. Orlando center Dwight Howard received the other three first-place votes and finished fourth.
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant had no first-place votes and finished third.
Voting was done by a nationwide panel of sports writers and broadcasters, and this year one ballot was cast by fans in an online vote, which went to James. Players were awarded 10 points for first, seven points for second, five for third, three for fourth and one for fifth.
James finished second on five ballots and two writers placed him third. A year ago, James received 109 of 122 first-place votes.
James finished with 1,205 points, nearly doubling Durant (609). His margin of victory is the second largest in history, topped by only O’Neal, who won by 799 points in 2000. His first-place total was also the most since Kevin Garnett got 120 of 123 in 2004.
James joined Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan and Steve Nash on a who’s-who list of back-to-back winners.
“Those are guys I looked up to growing up,” he said. “To be in that same category is an unbelievable feat.”
For the second straight year, James chose to have the award ceremony his hometown of Akron.
Last May, he returned to St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and received the award in the quaint gymnasium in front of family, friends and the student body. He moved it to a larger but still familiar stage, opting for Rhodes — or the JAR, as it is known — on Akron’s campus, where he also played in high school.
The ceremony was open to the public, and hundreds of fans, a few of whom slept out overnight and many wearing an assortment of No. 23 James jerseys, stood in line for hours for their chance to witness yet another coronation of Ohio’s basketball king.
James considered holding the ceremony in the school’s new football stadium but was afraid the weather might not cooperate.
“We didn’t want it to rain on my parade,” he said.
James arrived fashionably late, riding in the back of a Maybach Zeppelin. He was greeted with screams from fans lining the sidewalk as he got out of the expensive ride, looking resplendent in a gray suit, blue shirt and sunglasses that weren’t needed on an overcast day.
When he finally took the stage along with Cavs coach Mike Brown, general manager Danny Ferry and owner Dan Gilbert, James was serenaded with chants of “M-V-P” by a crowd estimated at 3,000. Winning a second MVP wasn’t necessarily a goal. He does have another in mind.
“The only reason I do what I do on the court is to compete for an NBA championship,” he said. “I understand that until I won that I won’t go down as one of the greatest players ever. That’s my only goal right now. This is the closest I’ve been to it.”