The announcement came as a shock to James because he figured that he had not been forgiven by society and the media after making his decision to take his talents to Miami on national television.
“I remember just like yesterday when I signed here and basically, like the roof caved in,” James told The Associated Press. “To see that I and my team and everyone around me was able to patch that roof up, to come to this point, to come to this point and receive such a prestigious award, it’s huge.”
James performance during the 2012 playoffs made the decision easier for Time Inc. Sports Group editor Paul Fichtenbaum. Game 4 of the second-round series at Indiana and Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at Boston especially stood out for Fichtenbaum. He felt that is when James took his play to another level and came up big for the Heat when they really needed him.
“LeBron kind of made it easy on us,” Fichtenbaum said. “In a year that had really high standards, he just stood taller than everybody else.”
The Miami Heat star beat out stiff competition to win the award. Usain Bolt, who defended his 100 and 200-meter titles at the London Olympics. Miguel Cabrera became baseball’s first Triple Crown winner in 45 years. Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian winning his 22nd medal at the London Olympics.
James had the best year of his career in 2012. He won the elusive NBA title that he had been seeking for the first time and managed to win the NBA Finals MVP trophy. James also won his third NBA MVP award. He finished his summer off by helping the U.S. win Olympic gold for the second time.
Sports Illustrated did not just factor in his contributions on the court, but they also paid attention to his contributions off the court. James’ charitable involvement with schoolchildren in his hometown of Akron, Ohio really stuck out to the magazine.
Fichtenbaum believes that there has been closure for the most part of how people view James now, but realizes that the people of Cleveland have not completely forgiven him.
“LeBron’s jerseys are now the No. 1-selling jerseys. I think there’s a reason for that,” Fichtenbaum said. “I think people really appreciate him for everything he can do.”
This will be the 18th time that James has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He has been appearing of the cover of the magazine since February 2002, when he was a junior in high school and the magazine named him “The Chosen One”.
James joins a distinguished list people who have received the award. Past winners include Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Michael Phelps, Mike Krzyzewski and Pat Summitt.
James says he does not need the award because he never looks for individual accolades.
“I do what I do because I love it and I want to continue to get better at it,” he said.
James will be presented with the Sportsman of the Year award on Wednesday in New York, which is the scheduled release date for the issue to hit the stands.