Three-time NBA MVP LeBron James has reportedly donated $1 million to St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Oh., so that his alma mater can construct a new basketball gym that will bear his name.
The Akron Beacon-Journal reports that the new gym is expected to be open next season and will be called The LeBron James Arena.
James has appointed St. V-M boys basketball coach Dru Joyce II to oversee the project for him, but Joyce said everything will be run by James.
“I’m a hands-on guy and this is going to be more hands-on because it’s something that means a lot to me,” James said. “I’ll try to be hands on with Coach Dru, with the school, with the floor, the locker rooms, the bleachers. … I have a good sense of what stadiums or arenas or schools or gyms should look like.”
Planning started in January and renderings are under way for what will be named The LeBron James Arena. The project will include a new floor, lighting, bleachers, locker rooms, restrooms and an upgraded training room. One wall will tell the story of James and his high school friendships and “why he is so emotionally tied to us,” said Patty Burdon, St. V-M public relations manager.
The paper reports that the gym James played in during his high school career was opened in 1959 and its court measured 10 feet shorter than the standard 94 feet. ESPN.com notes that James' high school games were so popular that many home games were played at the University of Akron so that large crowds could be accommodated.
The Heat forward played four seasons on St. Vincent-St. Mary's varsity basketball team -- winning three state titles, three Ohio Mr. Basketball awards and two National High School Player of the Year awards -- and also competed for the school's football team, garnering all-state honors before focusing on basketball during his senior season. James, a 2003 graduate, was elected to the St. Vincent-St. Mary High School Athletic Hall of Fame in August 2011 and his high school basketball teams are featured in a 2009 documentary movie, "More Than a Game." James, 28, is headed for his fourth MVP award this season after averaging 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.7 steals while leading the Heat to a league-best 66-16 record, including a streak of 27 consecutive victories.