AKRON, Ohio - Christian Bates grew up playing against LeBron James on Akron community center and high school basketball courts. The two have remained friends and talk every summer.
With the news breaking on Tuesday that James will test the free agent market again, Bates is anxious to have a one-on-one chat off the court.
"I'll just ask him, 'What's you gonna do?' He'll probably give me an aloof answer at the point, something cheesy," Bates said.
Regardless of James' next decision, Bates and many residents in Akron will support their hometown hero whether he returns to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, stays with the Miami Heat or goes elsewhere.
"I would say he may come home. He may come home." Bates then paused and corrected himself, "Well, he may come back to Cleveland."
While many Cavs fans in the Cleveland area have stated they don't want James back, or they'll never forgive him for the public way he bolted from the team, the allegiance towards LBJ remains strong in Akron where he rose to stardom.
"Honestly, I don't know why Cleveland was so mad that he left his hometown because it really wasn't his hometown anyway," said Anthony Jackson who plays basketball for Archbishop Hoban High School in Akron.
There are mixed feelings in Akron as to whether James will ultimately return to the Cavs.
Speshal Simmons, another Hoban student, said, "I don't think he's going to come back to the team he just left."
Jarell Brown hopes James decides to return permanently to Northeast Ohio.
"It's going to help us, our city and stuff, help Akron get on the map more," Brown said.
Bates, 30, said James would face a lot of scrutiny if he returned to Cleveland, but didn't win a championship.
"A lot of people believe in order to complete his legacy, he needs to come home to fulfill it."