COLUMBUS, Ohio — While his playing career has taken him from Cleveland to Miami and back again, NBA superstar LeBron James has made a habit of making an annual visit to Columbus, be it for an Ohio State football game, a Buckeyes basketball game or a Cleveland Cavaliers preseason game.
For the reigning NBA Finals MVP, it never gets old.
“It’s always special,” James said prior to a team shootaround at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center, where the Cavs will host the Washington Wizards in their preseason finale on Tuesday night. “It’s just truly special. I don’t really have to harp on it, we all know that it’s always been a special place for me. Being here and getting an opportunity to play in front of these fans and being in this city, it’s always special.”
James’ history with Ohio’s capital city dates back to his high school days at Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary, where the Fighting Irish played in four and won three state title games at ‘The Schott’ from 2000-2003. Throughout his first seven-year stint in Cleveland and four seasons with the Miami Heat, James never shied away from sharing his affinity for Ohio State, routinely attending football and basketball games when his schedule allowed.
In recent years, James’ bond with the Buckeyes has only strengthened.
Trips to Columbus have become more frequent, as have social media posts from the four-time NBA MVP supporting college football’s currently second-ranked team.
Yes sir!! Ball game #GoBucks
— LeBron James (@KingJames) October 16, 2016
Some of that has been James’ proximity to the program since returning to Cleveland in 2014, as games are just now easier to get to. A bigger part of it, however, has been the man who now stands on the Ohio State sideline, as Urban Meyer’s relationship with the world’s best basketball player dates back to James’ prep playing days in the Rubber City.
“He actually recruited me in high school when he was the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame,” James recalled on Tuesday. “We’ve been knowing each other for quite a while.”
Even in his final season playing in Miami in 2013—Meyer’s second year at Ohio State—the three-time NBA champion could be spotted in Columbus, standing on the sideline of the school he once told College GameDay he would have attended had the NBA not allowed players to enter the draft straight out of high school when he was selected in 2003.
When the Buckeyes won the 2015 College Football Playoff championship, James was there. At each of the past two NBA Finals, Meyer returned the favor with trips to Cleveland.
The Cleveland Indians may be on the verge of making the World Series, but you won’t find two sports figures in the Buckeye State more powerful than the basketball star in Cleveland and the football coach in Columbus.
“Me and Coach Meyer have had a mutual respect for a long time,” James said. “We have some of the same goals in mind as well.”
Presumably, those goals involve winning more championships for their home state—something each has already witnessed the other do firsthand in the past two years.