AKRON, Ohio -- LeBron James went to the movies on Thursday night and brought 1,000 guests with him.
A few miles from the high school where he became a phenom, the NBA's reigning MVP hosted an advance screening of the documentary, "More Than A Game," a film about James' ascent to superstardom and the four childhood friends who helped him get there.
Shortly after severe thunderstorms blasted through the downtown area, chasing the marching band and cheerleaders from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School inside, James arrived at the historic Civic Theatre along with his girlfriend Savannah Brinson, New Orleans All-Star guard Chris Paul, TV host Nick Cannon and a few of the film's co-stars -- high school buddies Willie McGee and Dru Joyce III.
James will visit China, London and make other stops abroad to promote the film, but none of them will compare to showing it in his hometown.
"It means everything," the Cleveland Cavaliers megastar said. "This is where I was born, and I like to give back to the city where I came from. I wouldn't be the person I am without this city. The hardships and the great things that I have gone through have all built LeBron James.
"So to be able to come back and premiere a movie like this in a building I have seen my whole life is great."
The screening begins a busy three days in Akron for James. He will team up with Nike, one of his corporate partners, on Friday to salute young athletes in the area for their work in the community. On Saturday, James will ride through the city's streets along with Paul, Cavaliers teammate Mo Williams and Cleveland coach Mike Brown in his annual charity bike-a-thon.
The documentary, directed by Kris Belman, recounts how James and his friends pursued their dream of winning a national championship. Beginning in a decrepit inner-city gym, the five friends embarked on a journey that would be illuminated by a national spotlight as James' fame grew.
The film incorporates home video, personal photos and footage taken during James' final two years of high school.
James said he could have never imagined the finished product.
"We had a cameraman following us around. It was one more camera in my life, but we were just helping a guy do a school project," he said. "We never thought that six years after we graduated high school that it would turn into this."
James hopes those who see it come away inspired.
"The message, especially to inner city kids, is to just have a dream," he said. "Sometimes when you're a kid, you don't believe that your dream can become a reality. All five of us had a dream of winning a national championship and we didn't let anything stand in our way until we made it a reality.
"There's more ways out than just basketball, but at the same time, we used the game, we didn't let the game use us. By doing that we created a loyalty, we created a friendship and a brotherhood that was going to last forever. We're still best friends."