LeBron James is The 2012 Sports Illustrated Man of the Year

He made a decision to take his talents to South Beach. He won an Olympic Gold Medal. He won an NBA Championship with the Miami Heat and now he’s SI’s Sportsman of the Year for 2012.

There’s nothing much more I can about this. You can read everything below.


NEW YORK, NY (December 3) – Sports Illustrated today announced that Miami Heat and USA Basketball star LeBron James is the 2012 Sportsman of the Year. James who accomplished the rare feat of winning an NBA Championship, an Olympic Gold and being named league MVP and Finals MVP, joins an elite group of immortals such as Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky to receive this honor.  James is just one of six professional basketball players to be named Sportsman including Heat teammate Dwayne Wade (’06); Tim Duncan and David Robinson (’03), Michael Jordan (1991), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1985) and Bill Russell (1968).

Annually, the magazine presents the Sportsman of the Year award to the transcendent athlete, coach or team who by virtue of their superior athletic achievement and comportment took us all to a higher place.  The award debuted in 1954, and in describing the feats of the first Sportsman, Roger Bannister, the editors introduced the award’s guiding principle: “While the victory may have been his, it is not for the victory alone that he is honored. Rather, it is for the quality of his effort and manner of his striving.”

“This year there was an endless list of high-quality possibilities,” said Time Inc. Sports Group Editor Paul Fichtenbaum. “But LeBron’s stirring accomplishments on and off the court were impossible to ignore. He showed tremendous heart during times of adversity, and he delivered with relentless determination. Equally as impressive, although much less heralded, was his development of a hands-on educational program in an Akron, Ohio, school district which will have a profound and long-lasting impact on its students. His accomplishments embody the finest traditions of this award.”

For the Sportsman feature SI Senior Writer Lee Jenkins presents a myriad of poignant voices from those who know him best. Perhaps the most thoughtful was LeBron himself who talked openly about a coming of age.  Jenkins writes: And so, less than 29 months after he sat on a stage at a Boys & Girls Club in Greenwich, Conn., and incurred a nation’s wrath, LeBron James is the Sportsman of the Year. He is not the Sportsman of 2010, when he announced his decision to leave Cleveland in a misguided television special, or 2011, when he paid dearly for his lapse in judgment.

“He is the Sportsman of 2012. ‘Did I think an award like this was possible two years ago?’ James says. ‘No, I did not. I thought I would be helping a lot of kids and raise $3 million by going on TV and saying, ‘Hey, I want to play for the Miami Heat.’ But it affected far more people than I imagined. I know it wasn’t on the level of an injury or an addiction, but it was something I had to recover from. I had to become a better person, a better player, a better father, a better friend, a better mentor and a better leader. I’ve changed, and I think people have started to understand who I really am.’”

Last season, James became only the third NBA player to achieve the NBA Champion, Gold Medal winner, MVP trifecta (Jordan and Bill Russell) and just the seventh in NBA history to have three MVP awards (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jordan, Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Moses Malone).  He followed that by leading Team U.S.A. to an Olympic Gold medal, and was described by many as that team’s MVP.

Less heralded but incredibly impactful has been his work to support children’s education.  While working closely with the Akron, OH school system he launched a Wheels for Education program which supports to the city’s third grade students who have been deemed at-risk. More the 500 students participate in the program which is already making an impact. The preliminary report of Kent State researchers, tracking the group’s progress, found that James students averaged 14.7 absences last year, compared with 18.9 for their peers in the district. Even after the Wheels for Education kids pass third grade, they remain in the program. They will be monitored by James and his staff until they graduate from high school. The first commencement ceremony will be in 2021. In testament to his impact Austin Qualls a senior at Akron’s Firestone High, one of 19 Wheels for Education ambassadors says, “I’m not doing this because LeBron is a basketball player. I don’t even watch a lot of basketball. I recognize him more for his fatherly side.” 

Also from the story:

Team U.S.A Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski who coached LeBron in two Olympic competitions says: “The game is a house, and some players only have one or two windows in their house because they can’t absorb any more light,” says Mike Krzyzewski, head coach of Team USA. “When I met LeBron, he only had a few windows, but then he learned how beautiful the game can be, so he put more windows in. Now he sees the damn game so well, it’s like he lives in a glass building. He has entered a state of mastery. There’s nothing he can’t do. God gave him a lot but he is using everything. He’s one of the unique sports figures of all time, really, and he’s right in that area where it’s all come together. A voracious mind has caught up with a supreme body. The marriage is a marvel.”

Heat President Pat Riley (who interestingly addresses LeBron as B.O.A.T – Best of All Time). Jenkins writes: “After James had unleashed 45 points, snatched 15 rebounds and sucked all the juice from an expectant crowd, he marched toward [Pat] Riley, the Heat president who lured him to South Beach two years ago with his six sparkling rings. He was just a few steps from Riley when a 20-something man perched above the tunnel poured what remained of his beer through a net canopy, dousing James’s head and jersey…

‘From where I was standing, there was a backlight on LeBron from the arena, and as the [beer] pellets sprayed up in the air, they looked like they were forming a halo over him. This is what I saw: The good Lord was saying, ‘LeBron, I’m going to help you through this night because you’re a nice person, and I’m going to give you 45 and 15. But as you walk off, I’m going to humble the heck out of you.’ And, you know what, that’s the best thing that could have happened.’”

The following is a list of Sportsmen:

1954 Roger Bannister, Track 1975 Pete Rose, Baseball 1995 Cal Ripken Jr., Baseball
1955 Johnny Podres, Baseball 1976 Chris Evert, Tennis 1996 Tiger Woods, Golf
1956 Bobby Morrow, Track 1977 Steve Cauthen, Horse Racing 1997 Dean Smith, College Basketball
1957 Stan Musial, Baseball 1978 Jack Nicklaus, Golf 1998 Mark McGwire, Baseball
1958 Rafer Johnson, Track 1979 Terry Bradshaw, Pro Football   Sammy Sosa, Baseball
1959 Ingemar Johansson, Boxing   Willie Stargell, Baseball 1999 U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team
1960 Arnold Palmer, Golf 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team 2000 Tiger Woods, Golf
1961 Jerry Lucas, College Basketball 1981 Sugar Ray Leonard, Boxing 2001 Randy Johnson, Baseball
1962 Terry Baker, College Football 1982 Wayne Gretzky, Pro Hockey   Curt Schilling, Baseball
1963 Pete Rozelle, Pro Football 1983 Mary Decker, Track 2002 Lance Armstrong, Cycling
1964 Ken Venturi, Golf 1984 Edwin Moses, Track 2003 Tim Duncan, Pro Basketball
1965 Sandy Koufax, Baseball   Mary Lou Retton, Gymnastics   David Robinson, Pro Basketball
1966 Jim Ryun, Track 1985 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pro Basketball 2004 Boston Red Sox
1967 Carl Yastrzemski, Baseball 1986 Joe Paterno, College Football 2005 Tom Brady, Pro Football
1968 Bill Russell, Pro Basketball 1987 Athletes Who Care 2006 Dwyane Wade, Pro Basketball
1969 Tom Seaver, Baseball 1988 Orel Hershiser, Baseball 2007 Brett Favre, Pro Football
1970 Bobby Orr, Pro Hockey 1989 Greg LeMond, Cycling 2008 Michael Phelps, Swimming
1971 Lee Trevino, Golf 1990 Joe Montana, Pro Football 2009 Derek Jeter, Baseball
1972 Billie Jean King, Tennis 1991 Michael Jordan, Pro Basketball 2010 Drew Brees, Pro Football
  John Wooden, College Basketball 1992 Arthur Ashe, Tennis 2011 Pat Summitt, College Basketball
1973 Jackie Stewart, Auto Racing 1993 Don Shula, Pro Football   Mike Krzyzewski, College Basketball
1974 Muhammad Ali, Boxing 1994 Bonnie Blair, Speed Skating 2012 LeBron James, Pro Basketball
    Johann Olav Koss, Speed Skating  

That will do it.

Ken Fang

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013. He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television. Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.