"This isn't just a one-and-done event," said Desiree Bolden, who coordinates the school district's programs. "Every kid feels like they know LeBron. He's consistent."
When folks in town heard LeBron was considering returning to the Cavaliers this summer, they didn't quite know what to make of it.
"In some ways, he'd never left," said Akron businessman Todd Stein.
Joyce knew he could ask his son, Dru Joyce Jr., who was in Las Vegas with LeBron as he ran his annual skills camp.
This time there was no strain on his face. LeBron made a point of jumping into pickup games with each of the players in camp, rotating from court to court so they could one day say they played with him.
Wade dropped by the camp with James on Thursday, causing a stir among the crowd of college coaches in the stands. He caught a ride back to Miami with his friend later that night. James and Wade were friends before they were teammates. They parted late that night on the tarmac in Miami as family, as Wade would later write.
He was never in a hurry to go anywhere or get off the court. On the night after he met with Riley and the Heat, LeBron came to the gym and played pickup ball for about 45 minutes then sat with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. He put his arm around the Olympic team coach and had what appeared to be a heart-to-heart conversation
Who knows what was said? Had he already decided to return home? As far as Joyce was concerned, it was always just a matter of time.
"I tried to stay far enough away from it, because I didn't want to get caught up in this tsunami of hope and then it didn't happen," Joyce said. "I always thought that he would come home eventually. This is home. And I always thought that he didn't want to leave this thing undone."
Sometimes you have to leave a place before you realize how much it means to you. That may sound like a song lyric or a page from a Nike marketing campaign. There are those who will inevitably see LeBron's homecoming in a cynical light. Miami is a great city to ditch, the kind of place for which you get wholesome points for leaving by the side of the road to return to your Rust Belt roots.
Maybe it is that. Or maybe he was really worried about Wade's knees or underwhelmed by Riley's additions of Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger. A straight basketball calculation that he stood a better chance of winning with the Cavaliers' youth than an aging roster in Miami. But leaving home tends to help a man understand himself, what's in his heart and what matters in the end.
"My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball," James wrote in his SI letter. "I didn't realize that four years ago. I do now."