Chances are, whether you live in Ohio or not, the news of LeBron James' return to the Cleveland Cavaliers dominated your Twitter feed or your television today. Many Ohio natives are understandably thrilled about the return, and that includes several members of the Crew, including midfielder Ben Speas, who played college soccer at the University of Akron, James' hometown, and is from Stow, a suburb of Akron.
"I can't wait," said Speas. "I'm as excited as everyone else. I knew it was going to happen. I've been a LeBron fan ever since he came to the NBA. He's from Akron and we can't wait to have him back."
Speas revealed that he had many memories from his childhood in the Akron area, which coincided with the time that James was making headlines as a high school superstar.
"He lives 15 minutes from my house. I first remember when I was in probably middle school, hearing that Shaquille O'Neal was going to high school basketball games at [St. Vincent-St. Mary's]. I was like, 'alright, this is crazy.' Shaquille O'Neal was on the Lakers. Why would he come to Akron, Ohio? That was pretty unbelievable. Ever since then, I've been a LeBron fan."
Another former Akron Zip, Chad Barson, was just as excited even though he grew up just north of Columbus in Lewis Center.
"I think it's pretty cool that LeBron is coming back and a lot of the comments he's making about forgiveness and wanting to fix things the way they happened before, so I think that's cool that he's coming back to Cleveland, his home," said Barson. "Hopefully he'll bring them back to the winning caliber that they were at when he was here and get them a championship."
Barson, too, has first-hand experience of James' influence in Akron thanks to his time playing college soccer for the Zips.
"I pretty much think he has his hand in everything. Anyone and everyone around Akron and northeast Ohio has stories about LeBron from when he was in high school, how he was just the man back then even when he was a 15-year-old kid. I think it's pretty cool for someone to have that big of an impact on a city.
"What he did while he was there and then he went away left some sour tastes in some mouths, but now that he's coming back, I think everyone will accept him with open arms and really be thankful that he's coming back to such an important part of his childhood, and a place where people have really been loyal to him for the most part, for as long as I can remember."
Cleveland-area native and former Cleveland State Viking Brad Stuver, a noted Cavs fan, was another member of the team who was excited.
"I respect LeBron as a player. I didn't like the way that he left in the first place, but it's great that he's coming back," said Stuver. "I think it's great for the city and it's great for the Cavs. He's definitely a big player. He'll give Kyrie [Irving], the young guys like [Andrew] Wiggins, [Anderson] Varejao as well – I think he'll give them a lot of support and I think we have a real chance at the championship."
Stuver said that he intended to get to as many Cavs games as possible this season, and also that another notable Cavaliers fan on the Crew, Josh Williams, had already bought season tickets. Earlier in the day, Williams expressed his reaction to the news on Twitter.
"Everyone should LOVE where they're from," wrote Williams. "It's who YOU are. I just happen to be from the same place as the greatest athlete of our generation. Cleveland is on top of the sports world and I couldn't be happier. Had so many great nights in that city and I look forward to many more! The King is back!"
The big question on everyone's mind, however: will James' return bring Cleveland its first championship in any sport since 1964?
"[James] has Kyrie now as well. Kyrie is incredible. He was the All-Star Game MVP, and I don't think we ever had an All-Star MVP along with LeBron. I think this is the time that Cleveland is going to get their championship, hopefully," said Speas. "I know it's not going to happen right away, but once we get that NBA title, it's going to be a special time."