MIAMI (AP) — When LeBron James learned he was Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year, the Miami Heat star was surprised.
Not because he thought his achievements in 2012 weren’t worthy, but because he figured what happened in 2010 was still holding him back.
Apparently, that’s no longer the case. The magazine announced its annual choice Monday, with James becoming the first NBA player to win the award since Heat teammate Dwyane Wade in 2006.
“I remember just like yesterday when I signed here and basically, like the roof caved in,” James told The Associated Press, referring to the fallout from his infamous “Decision” to leave Cleveland for Miami in 2010. “To see that I and my team and everyone around me was able to patch that roof up, to come to this point, to come to this point and receive such a prestigious award, it’s huge.”
Past winners include Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklaus, Wayne Gretzky, Arthur Ashe, Tom Brady, Derek Jeter and Michael Phelps. College basketball coaches Mike Krzyzewski — James’ Olympic coach — and Pat Summitt shared the honor last year.
Time Inc. Sports Group editor Paul Fichtenbaum said one thing separating James this year was that when Miami needed him most “he came up the biggest.” In particular, Game 4 of the second-round series at Indiana and Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at Boston.
“LeBron kind of made it easy on us,” Fichtenbaum said. “In a year that had really high standards, he just stood taller than everybody else.”
James won essentially all he could win in 2012: He became an NBA champion for the first time, won the NBA Finals MVP trophy, helped the U.S. win Olympic gold for the second time and picked up his third NBA MVP award.
Fichtenbaum said James was the choice not only for his play but also because of his charitable work, especially involving schoolchildren in his native Akron, Ohio.
“I do think there has been some sort of closure — maybe not entirely in Cleveland, but across the nation,” Fichtenbaum said. “LeBron’s jerseys are now the No. 1-selling jerseys. I think there’s a reason for that. I think people really appreciate him for everything he can do.”
This is the 18th time James will be on SI’s cover, the magazine said. His first time was as a high school junior in February 2002, when the magazine famously dubbed him “The Chosen One” and touted how he would have been an NBA lottery pick even then.
The first 17 covers were different: Only this one has James wearing an NBA championship ring.
James said the sportsman honor was humbling considering this was year in which Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas and Missy Franklin starred at the London Olympics, Miguel Cabrera became baseball’s first Triple Crown winner in 45 years and Roger Federer captured Wimbledon for the seventh time.
“Do I need it? I don’t need it,” James said. “I don’t ever look for individual accolades. I do what I do because I love it and I want to continue to get better at it.”
The Dec. 10 issue of SI is out Wednesday, the same day James will be honored at the magazine’s Sportsman of the Year awards gala in New York.
(Photo Credit: AP)
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
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5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
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6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
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7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
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8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
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9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
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10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
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11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
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12. Late nights mornings
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13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
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14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
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15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
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16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
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17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
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18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
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19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
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20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
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21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
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22. Claudia Jordan: ....
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23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
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24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
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25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
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