LeBron James did what the University of Akron football team and the Cleveland Browns, who scrimmaged on Summa Field last week, couldn't do.
He packed Infocision Stadium to the gills.
All the King's men -- and women and children and even a fan club of non-biological grandmothers -- came out Friday to officially welcome home Akron's prodigal son.
Some 30,000 fans packed the stands and box seats while 800 Akron Public Schools students in James' Wheels for Education program sat with their families around a stage centered on the 50-yard line.
The main event, delayed by an hour as the students and their families got situated, began as the sun set over Akron.
"Tonight is a celebration of excellence," Scott Scarborough, president of the University of Akron announced in the opening remarks.
After introductions and thanks from many touched by his generosity, James addressed the crowd.
"Today and tonight is about these kids ... not me, not Akron, not Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus or any city in Ohio," James said.
Surrounded by the Wheels for Education students, the basketball star talked little about the game. Instead, he recited with Wheels for Education kids the program pledge, a commitment to succeed in school and life.
"Tonight isn't about LeBron James. It isn't about any adult who came on this stage," he repeated. "It's about these kids."
He ended his speech on an emotional tone.
"I'm gonna do what makes my city, and my state happy. And that's why I'm back," James said. "I love you, I'm back."
Sporting an all-access pass on his way to a club seat, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic couldn't agree more. It isn't even a welcome back event, the mayor suggested.
"He never really left Akron," Plusquellic said, echoing a sentiment widely held by Akronites. "And that's a pretty significant statement."
Plusquellic later took to the stage, thanking James for what he has done for the kids and the community.
"He's done such," Plusquellic said. "I've said it to people for years; he's a better person than he is a basketball player."
In the crowd at Infocision Stadium, fans wanted only to see James in person, cooing with excitement each time a door cracked open, leaning forward to see if James would emerge from the other side.
One attendee, however, looked forward to something else.
"Learning," said Tristan Thomas, 8. That's all. "Learning."
James' commitment to play again for the Cavaliers took a backseat Friday night to his commitment to child learning.
"I think it's great that someone has taken an interest in our kids," said Tristan's mom, Tia Higgins of Akron.
Prior to the main event, the LeBron James Family Foundation gathered 800 Akron schools third-graders in a parking lot outside the stadium to kick off his "I Promise" barbecue.
Participating students pledge to behave, strive for excellence, have fun and other noble goals.
"I think it's a message that will register pretty well," Higgins said, considering the messenger.
In return for their commitment, the third-graders enter the Wheels for Education program and receive an education boosted by James' generosity.
This year, James adopted the fourth group of third-graders into the program.
Antoinette Barkley is grateful for the example James sets for her children, who attend elementary school in Akron.
"I just think it's a great thing he's doing for the kids," she said, waiting in line to enter the I Promise event.
Barkley graduated from Buchtel High School in 2001, when scouts were still comparing the St. Vincent-St. Mary star to Magic Johnson. Barkley, like many from the area, said James never left in spirit.
During his time in Miami, where he picked up two championships, James launched the Wheels for Education campaign in 2011 and boosted giving from his foundation, formed in 2004.
"It's amazing that somebody out of little old Akron can make such a difference with these kids," Barkley said.
The Wheels for Education program includes a summer technology camp that prepares students for a modern education with computers and tablets.
Last year, the Foundation gave $280,000 in Samsung tablets to Akron Public Schools' third-graders.
This year, the Foundation partnered with online book publishers and educational organizations to establish the nation's largest e-library in Akron schools. Through the online library, students check out a virtually limitless collection of books while teachers monitor their reading, updating the collection based on student interest.
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