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NBA | LeBron James: 'It's always special' playing at Ohio State

Adam Jardy, The Columbus Dispatch
"It's always been a special place for me. I've had the opportunity to play in front of these fans, and to play here is special." -- LeBron James, on playing in Columbus

Tonight in Value City Arena, LeBron James gets another chance to continue his love affair with the university he’d have called home had he been required to go to college.

In their final preseason game of the year, the Cleveland Cavaliers will host the Washington Wizards where Ohio State plays its home games. James is expected to play in the final tuneup for the defense of the first title in team history, and he will do so on the court where he starred as a high-schooler for Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.

At morning shootaround at the arena, James reiterated his feelings about playing at Ohio State.

“It’s always special,” he said. “It’s truly special. I don’t have to harp on it. It’s always been a special place for me. I’ve had the opportunity to play in front of these fans, and to play here is special.”

The Ohio State men’s basketball team has a special wall inside its locker room displaying the exclusive James shoes the program has been given, and coach Thad Matta was asked to be part of the championship parade through downtown Cleveland to celebrate the championship.

He rode alongside football coach Urban Meyer, with whom James said he has a longstanding relationship.

“I’ve always had a connection with the program,” James said. “Me and coach Meyer have had a mutual respect for a long time. He actually recruited me when I was in high school and he was the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame, so we’ve known each other for quite a while. We have some of the same goals in mind as well.”

James likely won’t play long tonight against the Wizards, who will feature Northland grad Trey Burke, but he said he’s ready to try and defend the title.

“We’re not satisfied with what we did,” he said. “We know the accomplishment we did, and we know it was a huge thing not only for our organization but for the whole city of Cleveland and northeast Ohio. You’ve got to try to get better every day. If you do that, you’ll put yourself in a good position.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy