LeBron James is the 2016 Sportsperson of the Year according to Sports Illustrated.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 1, 2016
James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first NBA title in franchise history last summer, and delivered a legendary performance in the improbable come-from-behind victory against the juggernaut Golden State Warriors.
LeBron also had a major impact off the floor, fearlessly and forcefully speaking up about important societal issues:
In the end we could choose only one winner, which brings us to the 2016 Sportsperson of the Year, LeBron James. He, of course, was not the only athlete to help end a famous title drought. He wasn’t even the only athlete to be part of a comeback from a 3-1 deficit to end a famous title drought. He is, however, the only athlete who did those things to gain more than a ring. In putting the Cavaliers on his back in the NBA Finals he also fulfilled a promise to his home city and to an entire region. He was following through on that heartfelt, but risky, vow he made three summers ago when he returned home after four successful years in Miami.
LeBron James certainly did not save Cleveland or northeast Ohio, but he lifted the area in unmistakable ways. […] This award celebrates northeast Ohio as much as its does the region’s favorite son. In a very crowded year of Sportsperson candidates, the connection between player and community, his community, can be fairly described as the tiebreaking vote.
But LeBron lent more to the 2016 sports story than his game. He lent his voice, too—fitting, because this Sportsperson honor—James’s second—also represents the impact an athlete can have beyond winning rings or medals. In his piece Jenkins points this out too: when James meets the media before or after games, he is willing to weigh in on much than what’s happening in his own locker room and around the NBA. It could be something as mundane as the NFL’s falling television ratings; increasingly, it’s weightier topics such as Black Lives Matter, the need to help at-risk kids in Akron, or the presidential election. James as recognized, and embraced, the platform sports gives him to be as powerful off the court as on it.