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Sports Illustrated names LeBron “Sportsman of the Year”

Dec 3, 2012, 11:10 AM EST

LeBron Sportsman of the Year AP

When we reflect back on him in 20 years, we may remember 2012 as the year LeBron James started to fulfill his potential.

And he can now add Sports Illustrated “Sportsman of the Year” to his list of accolades from 2012 that include NBA champion, NBA regular season MVP, NBA finals MVP and leading Team USA to a gold medal at the London Olympics (and make no mistake, when you watched that team practice it was clear whose team it was).

The magazine made its announcement Monday. The last time an NBA player won the honor? Back in 2006 when Dwyane Wade did it.

For years LeBron had seemed unable to reach his full potential. Sure, he had put up monster numbers, twice been NBA MVP, he’d led teams deep into the playoffs, he had a gold medal, he’d been the best player walking the planet for maybe five years. But there was always another level you could sense but that he couldn’t reach. You felt something holding him back.

In 2012 he matured enough mentally to reach those heights. He needed to be out of Cleveland — where he was close to home and where team ownership bent over backwards to cater to him. Basically, he needed to move out of the home he grew up in.

Then he got to Miami where Pat Riley wasn’t bending the franchise for him. More importantly, he became hated by many and had to adapt to people seeing him as a villain. He didn’t like it.

But somewhere after his first season in Miami, he seemed to accept that and find his mental balance. He grew up. And when that happened he could tap into all that potential. He averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game — but he had better statistical seasons before. What was different was the leadership, the ability to take over a game late (or whenever it was needed). The Heat became LeBron’s team and Wade was 1A.

And he put together a year that nobody has ever done save Michael Jordan.

That is what Sports Illustrated is recognizing.

  1. canehouse - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    Hard to argue that anyone had a better 2012… NBA Champ, MVP, Olympic Gold!

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Dec 3, 2012 at 4:27 PM

      You’d think. But read the comments. Some very angry, miserable, misguided, uninformed, jealous people out there

    • 808raiderinparadise - Dec 3, 2012 at 6:20 PM

      LeBron was huuuuuge in the playoffs.

      I don’t think enough people know how to admire his team game.

      For being the best player in the NBA now and one of the best ever, he somehow just meshes with his teamates so well, He has monster games but while you watch you see how much of a team player he is and forget about his stats, I just can’t really think of another player quite like that, that dominates but doesn’t overshadow his team. Magic is the only similarity to me.

      LeBron is a modern day Magic Johnson.

      The LeBron haters are pathetic,

      LeBron is a much better person than MJ and Kobe … better player? You all can debate but he is a great face for the NBA which right now has loads of thugs or negative personalities, bad leaders, and selfish people.

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Dec 4, 2012 at 9:35 AM

        Great post

  2. skids003 - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    I hereby cancel my subscription to that rag… Oh, wait, I did that years ago. They only have one issue a year worth looking at anyway.

  3. gatordontplay - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    It’s sad how desperate the media and the nba is for this guy to be successful

  4. lucky5936 - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    I hate Lebron.

    • hehateme2 - Dec 3, 2012 at 2:01 PM

      sorry to tell you that no one cares what you think.

      • lucky5936 - Dec 3, 2012 at 4:10 PM

        How ironic, I don’t care what you have to say either. Looks like Kurt Circle Jerk group just expanded. Enjoy the reach around.

      • badintent - Dec 3, 2012 at 8:18 PM

        Kurt is a star fu*KER. ALWAYS HAS BEEN.Certified Groupie snoopy.But no snopping, no sonning.no preaching,

  5. bucrightoff - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    When the media spends years hyping a guy up (in SI’s case, more than a decade now), they must fulfill the prophecy they themselves set. Nothing surprising here. Is he more deserving than Usain Bolt for instance? Hell no, but Usain was never called the greatest sprinter before he ever raced.

  6. gatordontplay - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    Skids swimsuit bitches

    • skids003 - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:23 PM

      That issue is pretty good, eh?

  7. thraiderskin - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    Hard to argue with the obvious… the guy, who might be the greatest athlete of this century (thus far), finally won gold for his team… and his country(again).

  8. mrbiz8505 - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    What the hell did Wade do to earn it in 06’??….. Must have been a weak sports year

    • miamatt - Dec 3, 2012 at 7:48 PM

      Uhhh, bring the Heat their first title, overshadowing Shaquille O’Neal in the process? Have one of the greatest finals performances of all time?

      Look at the list for the past 20 years, it is almost all NFL, NBA, and MLB stars who won a championship the year they were awarded it.

  9. 1972wasalongtimeago - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    Like there was a choice.

  10. dko83 - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    Revoke this award based solely on that barbershop commercial being shoved down my throat everywhere I turn.

    • scalfor3 - Dec 4, 2012 at 5:53 PM

      why the thumbs down? that commercial sucks and is EVERYWHERE.

  11. cantonbound13 - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    Kurt’s more excited than LeBron.

  12. nolanwiffle - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    “In 2012 he matured enough mentally to reach those heights. He needed to be out of Cleveland — where he was close to home and where team ownership bent over backwards to cater to him. Basically, he needed to move out of the home he grew up in.”

    What kind of utter nonsense is this? He took the Cavs to a Finals appearance. If he’s patient and allows the franchise to build around him he eventually wins a title. Bringing a championship to a championship-starved city would have elevated him to G.O.A.T. talk.

    Now he’s the guy who bailed to go play with his friend who had already earned his ring.

    • miamatt - Dec 3, 2012 at 3:16 PM

      I’d call seven years patience enough. Every year the Cavs made some desperate, short sighted move (Shaq, Antawan Jamison) rather than taking a long view towards building a potential dynasty. Look at what the Cavs were before and after LeBron- that tells you all you need to know about how competent management is in Cleveland.

      And yes, he was coddled in Cleveland- there were absolutely scared to say “no” to anything he wanted, and you can’t run a business that way. There’s a story about his first year in Miami where LeBron asked Wade to ask Spoelstra to change the team’s flight from that particular evening to the following day, so he could party with his friends on South Beach. Wade balked, so LeBron went to Coach Spo himself, and was told, “That’s not how we do things here.” Don’t tell me that management has nothing to do with getting the best out of players, which is exacrly what the Arison family and Pat Riley have done. Does anyone honestly believe the Cavs would have won a title if LeBron had stayed? Fat chance, IMHO.

      • nolanwiffle - Dec 4, 2012 at 9:29 AM

        Bulls in Michael Jordan’s first 7 seasons:
        38-44
        30-52
        40-42
        50-32
        47-35
        55-27
        61-21…won NBA title

        The Bulls at various times added valuable pieces like Orlando Woolridge and Dennis Hopson

        Cavaliers in Lebron James’ first 7 seasons:
        35-47
        42-40
        50-32
        50-32…lost NBA title
        45-37
        66-16
        61-21

        Let’s not revise history and pretend Cleveland wasn’t building something good. Jordan didn’t run off and sign with an Eastern Conference rival in order to stack a line-up and win a ring. LeBron did.

      • miamatt - Dec 4, 2012 at 12:23 PM

        @nolanwiffle:

        #1 what on god’s green earth does Michael Jordan have to do with any of this? Nobody is talking about Jordan. And trolling out a list of regular season records doesn’t prove a thing. since you like lists, though, here’s one:

        Daniel Gibson
        Danny Green
        J.J. Hickson
        Zydrunas Ilgauskas
        Cedric Jackson
        Darnell Jackson
        LeBron James
        Antawn Jamison
        Coby Karl
        Jamario Moon
        Shaquille O’Neal
        Anthony Parker
        Leon Powe
        Sebastian Telfair
        Anderson Varejao
        Delonte West
        Jawad Williams
        Mo Williams

        It doesn’t take a revisionist to see the flaws in that roster. A bunch of has beens and never weres…. Varejao is the only player on that list who improved since that year, and he still more a great role-player than franchise anchor. Can you name the last team that one a title with one legit all-star? You won’t find one- and that includes all of Kobe’s and MJ’s teams. Nobody wants to play in Cleveland, and those Cavs sure weren’t gonna luck out with the lottery again. Just because James carried them to a finals and two 60+ win seasons doesn’t mean something was “building”.

        You also miss the larger point about stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Fair or no, LeBron’s comfort zone was having his a$$ kissed in Cleveland. Do you still live at home with your mama? I bet not, and you are a better man for it.

      • nolanwiffle - Dec 4, 2012 at 1:57 PM

        I thought it was plainly apparent why I referenced Jordan. You said seven years was patience enough for LeBron to wait for the franchise to build around him. I then showed you each player’s team record in their first seven seasons in the league. Fairly comparable I thought. Jordan got better each year, watched management put complementary pieces around him, and ultimately won six rings. Conversely, James “took his talents to South Beach” to get one the easy way.

        And since you took such a shine to lists, here’s another:

        Gene Banks
        Dave Corzine
        Quintin Dailey
        Kyle Macy
        Orlando Woolridge
        Rory Sparrow
        Granville Waiters
        George Gervin
        Jack Haley
        Sam Vincent

        “Nobody wants to play in Cleveland”, I’m glad we’re dealing in facts here and not just your expert opinions. “Just because James carried them to a finals and two 60+ win seasons doesn’t mean something was ‘building'”. I’d think most franchises would feel they were onto something good if they’re armed with the best young player in the league and post back-to-back 60+ win seasons in that player’s sixth and seventh seasons (when he was age 24/25).

        And it’s not a stretch to say every superstar in the NBA is coddled. “LeBron’s comfort zone was having his a$$ kissed in Cleveland.” Are you familiar with “The Jordan Rules” by Sam Smith? MJ fared pretty well in his own comfort zone.

        It’s my opinion that if James wanted to be placed along side Magic, Bird, and Michael in the pantheon of all-timers, he should’ve remained in Cleveland and won it on his own. We’ll never know if he could have pulled off what each of those three did.

        I happen to like James as a player. I was disappointed to see him leave the Cavs, strictly from a historical perspective.

      • scalfor3 - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:02 PM

        Miamatt: As a matter of fact, I can name the last team to win a championship with only one legit All Star. The 2011 Dallas Mavericks

      • miamatt - Dec 4, 2012 at 8:23 PM

        @scalfor3: You actually got it right. And we can throw the 2004 Pistons in there for good measure, with a collection of all-star but not superstars. It can work- but it is the exception, not the rule, and it never yields sustained excellence.

        As far as the rest, my point about being coddled in Cleveland has more to do with never leaving home than anything else. Jordan had a tremendous college experience, and Chicago has not a hop, skip, or jump from where he grew up. There’s nothing wrong with comfort zones, per se, but there is such a thing as being too comfortable. LeBron had that whole region eating out of the palm of his hand by the time he graduated high school, and I don’t think it served him well. Just my opinion, though.

        Reality, though, is that half the teams in the league planned for the summer of 2010, at great risk. Why was Cleveland caught flatfooted when it arrived? Pat Riley was in Wade’s ear about recruiting other A-listers, and took the chance of losing him, clearing out cap space at the expense of the year (or 2) before. Look at what Chicago is doing right NOW- they haven’t been fooled by big regular seasons, they are thinking long-term about building around Rose. And just ’cause things went one way for Jordan doesn’t mean that’s the way of the world. Ask Kevin Garnett how he feels about 12 years of loyalty to the Timberwolves.

        Again, I’m looking for one sign of Cleveland management being competent outside of drafting the consensus #1 pick the last two times they won the lottery. I don’t see it.

  13. cantonbound13 - Dec 3, 2012 at 2:41 PM

    Not an eventful sports year.

  14. barroomhero80 - Dec 3, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    DOUCHE

  15. borderline1988 - Dec 3, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Toss up between Lebron and Usain Bolt. Ultimately, the more recognizable and marketable guy won, although it’s not like it wasn’t deserved.

  16. ninthwardfriend - Dec 3, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    I disagree ,that is Wade’s team and still is. Wade ain’t no dummy. Lebron jumped ship onto Wade’s ship to win one. If James would have gave the poor city of Cleveland one title he would have been the MOST HIGH FOREVER. MJ gave 6 but one in Cleveland unbelievable. Ask me I am a Saints fan.

  17. rodge1 - Dec 3, 2012 at 7:02 PM

    @808raiderinparadise

    Very well put.

  18. teedraper - Dec 3, 2012 at 7:02 PM

    “he’d been the best player walking the planet for maybe five years”

    What are you smoking? I know smoking crack is bad but smoking Lebron’s a$$ crack has to be worse.

  19. scalfor3 - Dec 4, 2012 at 6:11 PM

    He joins former SI Sportsmen of the Year Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, Mark McGuire/Sammy Sosa, Greg LeMond, Pete Rose and Joe Paterno.

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