North Philadelphia. The corner of 15th and Erie. That’s where it all began, right there at the intersection of dreams and reality. Growing up in the City of Brotherly Love meant everything to a kid that didn’t have much. “I breathe Philadelphia,” he has said, “I am a product of my environment.” What was Philly then? Home. Philly was real life. He had a mother and an older brother, a place to sleep. He didn’t have a yard, but he had belief. He knew how to make people laugh, which was the currency he dealt in. Positive vibes and belief. That was enough. It was in Philadelphia that he began to find his voice on a stage.

That voice became original, and the material turned to gold. His voice boomed out and energized audiences, and the lights from one stage blurred with the next, from New York to New England, from the East Coast to the West Coast, soon all over the world. Stand-up was his deal. Comedy clubs became arenas. Arenas became the hallowed ground of “most famous arena on Earth” — Madison Square Garden.

Madison Square Garden.

Only a handful of comic heavyweights had succeeded in headlining MSG, legendary names such as George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, and Russell Peters. Now Hart had made it. He took Manhattan by storm. It was the pinnacle of his career at that point.  But, he wasn’t done. He was willing to work harder than anybody else in the industry, and had so much to still to give.

And give back.

Hart was headed some place where no comedian had ventured before — a place that meant more than anywhere else, that could contain his energy and understand his depth of comedy like nowhere else. He went home. But not just home. He sold out the football stadium — over 53,000 people at Lincoln Financial Field — in just minutes. He returned home a made man, to pull off some serious “comedic rock star shit,” as he called it. It was a celebration.

Philly had named July 6 Kevin Hart Day in honor of his birthday. The dreams of that kid who ? grew up down the block at 15th and Erie now came out to a deafening roar. He didn’t have a lot growing up. But he had Philadelphia. And now Philadelphia had him back.

The lights came up. The comedian stepped onto the stage. After a million miles and countless stages, Hart came back full circle to say what he always knew to be true.

“I’m a big deal.”