NBA star LeBron James of the Miami Heat has been named as the Sportsman of the Year for 2012 by popular sports magazine Sports Illustrated. James now becomes the first basketball player to capture the award since back in 2006 when teammate Dwyane Wade won it.
James joins a prestigious list of athletes who have won the award in the past. These include former world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, golfer Jack Nicklaus, tennis player Arthur Ashe, NFL quarterback Tom Brady, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, swimmer Michael Phelps and Wayne Gretzky, the NHL’s all-time leading scorer.
Last year, the award went to Mike Krzyzewski and Pat Summitt as the legendary college basketball coaches were named as co-winners.
Paul Fichtenbaum, who is an editor with Time Inc., said that James was the frontrunner for the honor since he showed up when his basketball club needed him the most. He said that James came up with a huge performance during the fourth game of the Heat’s second-round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers as well as the sixth game of their showdown against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.
Fichtenbaum stated that James’ performances in the playoffs actually made it easy for Sports Illustrated to select him for the award since he stood out among his peers.
The award caps off an excellent year for James, as he won his first NBA title with the Heat as well as the Most Valuable Player trophy for the playoffs. On top of that, he was a member of the U.S. team that won the Olympic gold medal this summer in London, England and also earned the MVP award for the NBA’s regular season. Fichtenbaum also mentioned that said while James stood out because of his athletic achievements, he also put in a lot of charitable work with schoolchildren in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.
Due to the award, James will be appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the 18th time! The first time he graced the front page was back in 2002, when he was a junior in high school. He was such a good player even then that the magazine said he was good enough to have been a lottery pick in the NBA draft right out of high school. This time when James appears on the cover, he’ll be showing off his NBA championship ring on his finger.
James said he was honored to win the award, especially since there were so many exceptional athletic performances in 2012. He mentioned Missy Franklin, Gabby Douglas, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt as athletes who all stood out at the Olympics as well as the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, who won a triple crown in MLB this year, the first time in 25 years. He didn’t forget to mention tennis great Roger Federer either, as he won his seventh Wimbledon title this year.
The new Sports Illustrated issue with James on the cover will be released on Dec. 10.