LeBron James is known to millions as one of the NBA’s greatest stars and among the world’s most talented athletes. But now, he is known for one more trait: his character. The basketball phenom was named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated for his proactive involvement in social and cultural issues on top of his outstanding achievements on the court.
James had a historic year, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Golden State Warriors to claim their first NBA championship in a thrilling seven-game series while being named series MVP in the process. The 6’8″ forward was pivotal in causing the Cavs to become the first NBA team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the championship series.
Off the court, LeBron James played just as important of a role. He became a major contributor to the social justice, gun violence, and Black Lives Matter movements, speaking up on the countless tragedies that have taken place this year. He also donated a whopping $2.5 million to the newly opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, specifically to put towards an exhibit honoring legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, who passed away in June.
In a ceremony where he was formally presented with the award, James spoke highly of his family and childhood idols like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “This award is for my wife. This award is for my mother. This award is for my three kids back home,” he noted. “As I stand up here as the recipient of the 2016 Sportsperson of the Year, this isn’t about me. This is much bigger than me and I just want to say thank you to everyone.”
The 31-year-old earned the prestigious title in 2012, a year when he was truly unstoppable on the court, becoming an NBA Champion, league MVP and Olympic gold medalist in a matter of months. James is among sports’ greatest figures who have achieved the honor, including Tom Brady, Michael Phelps, Peyton Manning, Serena Williams, and Michael Jordan. He joins Tiger Woods for being the only two-time recipients.
With a current record of 17-5, the Cleveland Cavaliers sit firmly atop the NBA’s Eastern Conference standings, with James averaging a steady 25 points per game.