With all of his accomplishments, on and off the court, LeBron James has done his high-school coach, Dru Joyce, proud.


CLEVELAND -- LeBron James loves the city of Akron, and the city embraces him as its favorite son.

And that is what made James' decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers four years after leaving the team to chase NBA championships with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat even more special for those who know him best, including Dru Joyce, head coach at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

"It's great," Joyce told WKYC Friday afternoon. "It's great for Northeast Ohio. It's great for Cleveland. It's great for all the way down to Akron, and it's great for St. Vincent-St. Mary.

"There are a lot of happy faces. I'm one of them. This is a dream of mine that he would come back. Hopefully, everybody will receive him and understand that 2010 is 2010, and this is 2014. Let's move forward and understand that today in the present moment is the most important.

"He's not coming here just to ride out the end of his career. He's coming here to win. He's not going to play unless he's got an opportunity to win, whatever it is. He's a competitive guy. He wants to win."

At a very young age, James was a different kind of talent, and Joyce saw he had a passion for the game of basketball.

"LeBron, he loved the game, and since I started with him at 10 years old, he understood who I was and the love that I had for him outside of basketball," Joyce said. "It was just great because of his talent, his ability, but more than that, his heart. He had a heart for the game, and he had a heart to be a great teammate.

"I think that's lost in a lot of what you see in basketball today. It's a five-on-five game, and LeBron is the epitome of a five-on-five teammate kind of player. He was just a joy. There were times when it kind of blew up that I might have wanted to go outside and scream, but all-in-all, I wouldn't have traded my seat with anyone."

According to Joyce, it took only one conversation with James to make the young star understand how his unselfishness could help the team reach goals greater than individual success.

"Like most kids, he liked to shoot, and he did it well," Joyce recalled. "When we were driving home from a practice and he was 11 years old, I said to him, 'LeBron, you know you have a special talent. If you share the ball, if you pass it' -- because you could see he had that innate ability to pass it -- 'people are going to love playing with you.' And he got it.

"I never had to have that conversation with him again. Even through the high-school years where everyone was in his ear to score 50 or score 100, he always remembered the game was five-on-five. It was about the 'We, not the me.'"

While success within the game would take James to far-off places like China, the kid from Akron, Ohio, never forget his hometown. In giving back to the children in Akron, James has done his former coach proud.

"It's a very special feeling," said Joyce. "That's why I still coach because as a coach, you have that opportunity to pour your life into someone. That's what I had an opportunity to do with LeBron, and not just him, but all the players that have played with me. It's very special. As I sit there, I'm a proud dad to watch all of the things that he has done and the other guys have been able to accomplish."

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