He finally got his NBA championship breakthrough in 2012 and the accolades have continued to pour in for LeBron James well into the new season, as Sports Illustrated magazine has named the Miami Heat forward as their Sportsman Of The Year. He is the first NBA player to win the award since his current teammate, Dwyane Wade, won it in 2006.
James was surprised to hear he had won it, citing his now infamous 2010 “The Decision” as the main reason: “I remember just like yesterday when I signed here and basically, like the roof caved in, 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.”
Due to his overwhelming unpopularity at the time, it’s easy to see why James was taken aback by winning an award that is almost as much about popularity as it is about achievement. But it seems that James has regained his standing in the popular consciousness in large part due to his accomplishments on the court.
After the Heat’s 2011 Finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks, James hit a low point in his career as it seemed that his decision carried him no further than he had already gone with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Public mockery of the three-time MVP reached all-time highs and going into the 2011-12 season, most were still rooting for him to fail.
But following his incredible performance en route to the 2012 title, it seems that that same majority has forgiven him for his transgressions. He finally flipped the switch as we had all hoped he would during his time in Cleveland and reached his otherworldly potential. And with a title in hand, it seems he made the right decision from a winning standpoint.
It remains to be seen whether LeBron will win all the championships he promised during the Heat’s 2011 welcome party. But they say the first is the hardest to win, so things project to only get easier for the World’s best player from here on out.
Regardless of what may or may not happen, James sits at the top of the mountain now both on the basketball court and the court of public opinion. He’s even jumped back to the top of the league’s jersey sales list almost two years and “The Decision” after he last topped it. This coming after he was fourth in the last ranking.
Indeed, life is good for SI’s Sportsman Of The Year nowadays. Congrats LeBron.