On Thursday, AP announced LeBron James as the Male Athlete of the Year following what the publication described as his “most significant year.” Though James continues to dominate the NBA with his elite basketball skills on the court, his philanthropy and social activism have allowed him to ascend to newer heights.
After leading a lackluster Cavaliers team to the NBA Finals, making it his eighth consecutive NBA Finals appearance, James announced he would be moving west to join the Los Angeles Lakers.
What came with moving closer to Hollywood, is growing his off-the-court empire to produce meaningful content like his documentary series, “Shut Up and Dribble.” The series tackles the intersection between sports, culture and the socio-political world. He also debuted, HBO’s “The Shop,” that pairs some of the world’s greatest athletes, entertainers, and business minds for a candid barbershop conversation.
Among his other non-basketball related accomplishments, James opened the “I Promise” school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, in July 2018, what he described as his single greatest career achievement. “I Promise” is a school under the Akron Public School system, designed for at-risk children to receive a quality education.
“It is already such a success,” James told AP. “And it’s something that I never thought was possible, until we made it happen. So yes, it’s been a pretty good year.”
Though the three-time NBA champion did not earn his fourth NBA title this year, he has averaged 28.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 8.4 assists in 2018 between his time with the Cavaliers and Lakers playing in 102 games through Thursday.
“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,” remarked NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “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.”
James remains a leader both on the court and off it, all while being unafraid to use his platform to speak for the underrepresented and for what he believes.
“The next star is out there,” James said. “And I’m not just talking sports. Doctor, nurse, pilots, they’re out there. The one thing they need is knowing that people care about them and care about their lives. I believe it’s part of my job, and I take it very seriously, to try to tap into that.”
Despite constant criticism, James has remained dominant in all facets of life this year, which is why he edged out 2018 champions Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox and Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin for this AP distinction. He received 78 points in balloting by U.S. editors and news directors.
It is James’ third time earning the AP Male Athlete of the Year, as he joined elite company alongside Lance Armstrong (2002-2005), the years he won the Tour de France; Tiger Woods, who won in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2006; and Michael Jordan (1991-1993), earned the award every year he won the NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls. For James, the first two awards came in 2016 when he ended Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought with the Cavaliers first-ever NBA championship, and in 2013 with the Miami Heat.