Despite unwillingly taking on the villain role when he left Cleveland to take his talents to South Beach, LeBron James seems to have turned around his image… and has been named “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated.
The 2012 MVP tells the Associated Press he was surprised by the honor, especially of how much flack he received.
“I remember just like yesterday when I signed here and basically, like the roof caved in,” James said, referring to the fallout from his infamous “Decision”. “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 honor include Drew Brees, Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklaus, Wayne Gretzky, Tom Brady, Derek Jeter and Michael Phelps.
Time Inc. Sports Group editor Paul Fichtenbaum told the AP that this year James “came up the biggest” when Miami needed him most. Particularly, in 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.”
During the 2011-12 NBA season, James 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. How could he not win, right?
The cover will be James’ 18th for SI, after first gracing the mag’s cover as a high school junior in February 2002, when the magazine famously dubbed him “The Chosen One”.
His “Sportsman of the Year” cover is set to drop Wednesday (December 5), the same day James will be honored at the magazine’s Sportsman of the Year awards gala in New York. Read the full story at SI.com.