Only one other basketball player in history had been the NBA MVP, NBA finals MVP, an NBA champion and Olympic gold medalist in one year — Michael Jordan.
That was until LeBron James did it in 2012.
So LeBron being named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year seemed fitting. If you’re a LeBron fan (or LeBron) it’s a story of redemption. And we Americans also love winners.
LeBron spoke about all this the media about it Monday, via ESPN:
“It’s very humbling,” James said, after Monday’s Heat practice, about winning the award. “It was a long journey….
“Going through what I went through my first year here [in Miami], making the transition from Cleveland and ultimately winning a championship, it makes it sweeter,” he said….
“It’s a challenge when everything you do or say can be used against you,” James said. “The thing that’s helped me is that I’ve been watched and followed since I was 16 years old. They praise you and you make one mistake and they bring you down. They praise you again and then bring you down again so I’ve had a lot of hardships, but it all makes it sweeter in the end.”
LeBron sees his story as one of overcoming obstacles, of redemption. That’s how his official biography will read (the unofficial ones will be more interesting).
One ring is not going to cement LeBron’s legacy where he wants it to be, he’s going to take multiple. The mistakes and hubris of his past are not erased with this season, this award. But he clearly has matured, he has grown as a person and that allowed him to grow as a player.
And most frightening for the league, he may now just be hitting his prime.