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"I believe LeBron is a better person than he is a basketball player," Akron Mayor Donald Plusquellic said. "And I believe he's the best basketball player that ever lived. So that puts it in perspective, because he cares. He gives back. He doesn't have to do this. Riding around the city street, taking a chance on falling or something, giving back here and having some jerk yell something like they yell at me ... there's a sincerity inside of him."
Monday's event was part of a busy two days for James: On Tuesday, a new $240,000 clubhouse -- some of the $3 million generated from his `Decision' show last summer -- at Akron's Boys & Girls Club will be named in his honor, and later that night James and four of his high school teammates will be added to the athletic Hall of Fame at their alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
"I'm just using what I have, using my ability, for better and good," James said.
James touched on a variety of other topics in his interview with The AP, including:
How he finds motivation to work, even with many people expecting the NBA season to be delayed, at least: "I believe that Billy Hunter and the owners and (NBA Commissioner) David Stern are going to work toward having a season this year. And I'll be ready for it."
His upcoming trip to China, which starts later this week: "I look at it as an opportunity for me to go there and to continue to see the growth of the game of basketball. I've been there -- I think this is going to be my fifth time being there -- and every year I continue to see the growth of the game and how inspired they are by the game of basketball. And mostly the game is played outdoors. That's another thing that I hit home ... when I grew up, that's all we had."
How he is still overwhelmed by the reaction when he makes appearances in Akron and around the world, especially from kids: "It's very humbling that not only I can get a great reception here in my hometown, but also when I travel abroad I get the same reception. It was never like a dream of mine, but at the same time, it's very satisfying to see that these kids love the way I play the game of basketball and respect the way I play the game of basketball every night."
James seemed completely relaxed. He was surrounded Monday by nearly his entire inner circle: Longtime girlfriend Savannah Brinson, his mother, his two sons, many of his closest friends and advisers, even former teammates like Damon Jones.
He urges fans to relax as well. James had a message for NBA fans, suggesting they not abandon hope for the season.
"Stay positive," James said. "The game of basketball, we all love it. And we're going to try everything in our power to make sure that this game stays at a high level. And for me personally, I do it because of the fans. Every night I go out on the basketball court, I try to showcase my talent at the highest level because of the fans. They are our league. Our fans are our league."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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