Miami Heat’s LeBron James has routinely compared himself (as have others) to some of the greatest player in NBA history, mainly Micheal Jordan. With every championship and personal accolade he achieves, the argument for James to be included in the discussion of who the greatest is continues to get stronger. His latest achievement is sure to have sports fans humming, and that’s likely what James wants.
Sports Illustrated has named James as its 2012 Sportsman of the Year. It’s a title that no NBA player has earned since James’ current teammate Dwyane Wade received the honor in 2006. It’s James’ 18 time being on the cover of magazine, but its the first time with a championship ring.
James may have been awarded the moniker earlier in his career, but with controversy often surrounding him, he’s not always been the most popular player. Needless to say, things have improved in the last couple of years for James, including winning his first NBA title and an Olympic gold medal.
“I remember just like yesterday when I signed here and basically, like the roof caved in,” James told The Associated Press via ESPN.com, 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 of the award include Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklaus, Wayne Gretzky, Arthur Ashe, Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Michael Phelps and last year’s co-sportsman Mike Mike Krzyzewski and Pat Summitt. SI’s decision is a tough one some years and some years it’s not. This selection falls into the latter.
“LeBron kind of made it easy on us,” said Time Inc. Sports Group editor Paul Fichtenbaum. “In a year that had really high standards, he just stood taller than everybody else.”
Although James said he was humbled by the award and that he does not seek out individual accolades, he has to be happy that the public perception of him is improving, at least for the most part.
“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.”
The Sportsman of the Year issue of SI will hit newsstands on Wednesday Dec. 10, the same day James will be honored at the awards gala in New York.