Sports Illustrated Thursday announced that Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James is the 2016 Sportsperson of the Year. In a year full of stirring and historic performances across all sports, James was transcendent, rallying the Cavaliers from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals to deliver the city of Cleveland’s first championship in a major sport since 1964.
James, who has now won three NBA titles, was named Finals MVP for the third time in his career. More important to fans in Cleveland, he delivered on the promise he made when he returned to the Cavaliers as a free agent in 2014: to bring the franchise in his home state its first NBA crown. James will be honored at the Sportsperson of the Year event at Barclays Center, in Brooklyn on December 12.
“It’s hard to remember a year with such a crowded field of Sportsperson candidates,” said Chris Stone, Sports Illustrated Editor in Chief. “But in the end LeBron James was the clear choice.”
Following the announcement, James said via Twitter, “Humbled! This honor belongs to everyone around me: my family, fans, team, & my @ljfamfoundation kids. #WeAreFamily #StriveForGreatness #RWTW”
Since 1954, Sports Illustrated has annually presented the Sportsperson of the Year award to the player, coach or team who has best personified the ideals of athletic achievement and sportsmanship. James, who was also SI’s SOTY in 2012, is only the second two-time winner of the award (Tiger Woods: 1996, 2000).
The list of past SOTY honorees is a who’s who of the greatest athletes of the last half century who have transcended their sport including Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Serena Williams.
This is the seventh time the Sportsperson award has gone to a professional basketball player. The others were Dwyane Wade (2006), Tim Duncan and David Robinson (’03), Michael Jordan (1991), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar(1985) and Bill Russell (1968).
James’s impact extends beyond the court. Through the LeBron James Family Foundation the Akron native has partnered with The University of Akron to guarantee four-year scholarships to qualifying children in James’s Akron I PROMISE Network program. Currently there are more than 1,100 students enrolled, the equivalent of more than $41 million in support. His Wheels for Education program supports at-risk third-grade students in the inner city and follows them all the way through graduation and beyond, and last month the foundation established the I PROMISE Institute, aimed at making the transition to college easier for these students and their families by providing the resources and support they need as they pursue their higher educations.
Additionally, the foundation recently announced a $2.5 million donation to the Muhammad Ali exhibit at the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture honoring Ali’s legacy in athletics, activism and beyond.
James will be honored alongside the 2016 SI Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award Winners Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown and Bill Russell; the SI Kids SportsKids of the Year and other top names and moments from the year in sports at SI’s special Sportsperson of the Year celebration taking place at Barclays Center on December 12. The star-studded affair, which will also be attended by Lonnie Ali, will include a special awards dinner and ceremony with tributes to some of the world’s most legendary athletes and special guests.
More information about how to attend the event at Barclays Center can be found HERE.