Miah Massey called herself LeBron James’ “No. 1 fan,” though, at the moment, she certainly has competition.
On Friday afternoon, she was in class at Seiberling Elementary School in Akron, Ohio. On Sunday morning, she was enjoying a gourmet breakfast in a swanky dining room at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami, courtesy of the LeBron James Family Foundation.
That was one of the many rewards for being selected one of the 10 “MVPs” out of the nearly 500 children in his program, a year after six kids received a similar road trip.
This time, the rewards included a free Saturday flight from Cleveland to Miami with a chaperone, a swanky hotel room, a trip to the beach, an ice cream party and — a few hours later — a seat on stage with her mother, Laura, for the official presentation of James’ fourth NBA MVP trophy.
Not a bad weekend for a 9-year-old.
“Nine-and-a-half,” she corrected.
So, what did Miah like about James?
“First, he lives in a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful world,” she said, fiddling with the multi-colored plastic “I Promise” wristbands she had won for good attendance at school and in after-school activities. “And second, now I forgot the question.”
It would be apparent, at the afternoon ceremony she attended, that her first answer was more than sufficient. Even for James, who appears to have everything, this day had to be a bit more beautiful than most.
It was a celebration of what he had accomplished during the regular season, and what he has accomplished in his career, now the winner of more MVP awards than all but Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and this one just a single first-place vote (out of 121) from unanimous.
It was a public display of the strength and diversity of his relationships — with family, with friends, with teammates, with Heat officials and coaches, even with the Akron kids he was inspiring, monitoring and, on this weekend, transporting.
It was an overwhelming outpouring of appreciation and affection.
It came from Heat president Pat Riley declaring that, in his 46 years of observing players in the NBA, “the man that we’re looking at right here, is the best of all of them.”
It came from his coach, Erik Spoelstra, lauding his dedication and calling him “an awesome teammate.”
It came from his teammates, if not as much in person — some slouched while others wiped away fake tears — then certainly in the sentimental six-minute tribute video. Nearly all offered personalized congratulations, with Mike Miller providing the comedy by saying that “what I’m most proud of, brother, is that between the two of us, we’ve now got four MVPs” and Dwyane Wade narrating the touching capper, with his testament to James’ ability, friendship and leadership.
Then it was James’ turn, to put it all in some perspective, and to do so somewhat differently than he did 359 days earlier when he won his third MVP award, and before he had further cemented his legacy with his first championship.
He thanked his mother, Gloria, for her sacrifices when he was young. He thanked his fiancée, Savannah, who calls him “honey bunny,” for her sacrifices now. He even thanked his future in-laws for helping take care of his sons, LeBron Jr. and Bryce, when he’s traveling the country and Savannah is “having wedding meetings, picking out chandeliers.”
He thanked his friends, those “in my corner” from the start, from Akron to here. He thanked the Heat organization, from executives to the coaching and training staffs. He thanked his teammates, whom he insisted he’d prefer to be sitting with so he could share in whatever jokes they were telling.
He took some questions as Bryce and LeBron Jr. ran up to flank him on the stage, each still smartly dressed, if not especially still. Their facial expressions provoked some laughter, as did their father’s response to a question about whether he had hoped to become the award’s first unanimous winner. Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony received the one first-place vote — from an undisclosed voter — that James didn’t get.
“It was probably a writer out of New York that didn’t give me that vote,” James quipped. “And we know the history between the Heat and the Knicks, so I get it.”
James got something else before he left on stage, a cheery salute from those Akron kids, those he promised not to let down, with anything he did on or off the court:
“Thank you, LeBron!”
Not a bad weekend for a 28-year-old.