For the third time in his career, LeBron James has been named AP’s Male Athlete of the Year, an award that has candidates from all major sports. James finished with 78 points, 32 points more than second place Mookie Betts of the World Series champion Boston Red Sox. Alex Ovechkin placed third, Patrick Mahomes was fourth, and a horse (Triple Crown winner Justify) was fifth.
“I would describe it as a success because I was able to inspire so many people throughout the year,” James said. “I got to go back to China, to Paris, to Berlin, I opened up a school. And all these kids I was able to see, all over the world and in my hometown, I was able to inspire, to make them think they can be so much more than what they think they’re capable of being. That was my outlook for 2018.”
LeBron James joins Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Lance Armstrong as the only athletes to win the award three or more times. Armstrong is the only athlete to win the award four times and also did it in four straight years (from 2002 to 2005).
“In addition to being on everyone’s short list as one of the league’s all-time greatest players, LeBron is among the hardest working players and is a thoughtful and impactful leader,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “He serves on the executive committee of the Players Association even as he builds an impressive media company of his own. And what’s most inspiring, and no surprise given his talent and focus, is how he’s done all of this while embracing his unique opportunity to positively impact communities in need.”
LeBron was recognized for his talent on the court, averaging 28.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 8.4 assists in 102 games played between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers.
He was also recognized for his work as an activist outside of the sport, and for his public school in Akron called “I Promise”, where families receive any support they need.
“To this day, he hasn’t missed a step,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said earlier this year. “He hasn’t fallen off the ledge and he’s been a brilliant example for millions of kids, especially kids with lesser opportunity and haven’t had the same advantages as others.”
LeBron James will continue to be a role model for millions of kids when he eventually stops playing basketball, but it’s great that he’s being recognized as one of the greatest athletes ever while he’s still playing.