June 29, 2016


Will James show or not show?

AKRON — LeBron James’ hometown will hold “LeBron Appreciation Day” Saturday at the University of Akron’s InfoCision Stadium, but officials of the event haven’t confirmed whether the two-time league MVP will be in attendance.

“We’ve been in contact with his people and the Cavaliers,” InfoCision public relations director Gretchen Fri said. “From what we understand, he is aware of the event Saturday, but we haven’t officially heard anything.”

The family-geared event, which is free and open to the public, will last from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The first 10,000 in attendance at the 30,000-seat stadium will receive free T-shirts, but the real goal is to show support for James, who will officially become a free agent on July 1.

“Our goal is to fill the stadium,” InfoCision president Carl Albright said. “We have no idea if that’s reasonable or possible, but that’s certainly what we want.

“Chicago, New York and L.A. are going to have a big press junket, parade and rallies,” he added. “We just felt that here in our hometown, if we didn’t do something to show support that could send a big message by our absence. That’s how the idea for this really got started.”

The first two hours of the event will feature food, music, games, contests and chances to win drawings, while the critically acclaimed documentary about James’ career at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, “More Than a Game,” will play on stadium screens.

From noon to 1 p.m., fans will be asked to take seats in the stadium for a rally to celebrate James. It will feature entertainment, prize drawings, appearances by local celebrities and comments from local leaders.

“We’ve heard nothing but great things from all the civic, community and business leaders,” Albright said. “We’re just hoping people realize it’s their opportunity to show what (James) means to all of us.

“At the end of the day, if he decides to sign or go somewhere else, we should all look at it like, ‘We did all we could.’ If we don’t do that, it’s on us.”

Fred McLeod, the play-by-play man for Cavaliers telecasts on Fox Sports Ohio, and former player Campy Russell, a Fox Sports studio host who also serves as the team’s director of alumni relations, have confirmed they will be in attendance and are expected to speak at the event.

A Cavaliers spokesperson said a number of team employees will likely attend, while Fri expects several city and Summit County officials to be on hand.

A videotaped message from Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, who will be in Israel, will be played on stadium screens, as will one from Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel.

In addition, a James lookalike contest will be held and the Akron Zoo will have an exhibit.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.