LeBron James said he has never been driven by individual awards.
So the Cavaliers’ star, four-time league MVP and three-time NBA champion didn’t know how to react Thursday when Sports Illustrated announced his selection as the magazine’s Sportsperson of the Year for 2016.
Also chosen in 2012, James joined golfer Tiger Woods as the only two-time winners of the award.
“I know it’s a great achievement and I’ve heard the history of it and how honored I should be to get it,” James said after the Cavs’ shootaround at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “For me, you guys know how I am about individual awards — it doesn’t hit me or anything of that magnitude. But I’m honored that they have chosen me.
“I’m more happy for my family, my kids, my wife, my mom, and for my foundation, the kids that I represent and the kids that use me as a role model and an inspiration. For me, it’s an honor, I’m happy about it, but seriously, I really don’t know how to feel about it. But it’s a pretty cool thing for my family and my foundation and my kids and my kids in my foundation to have another way to be inspired.”
James later posted a tweet, which said, “Humbled! This honor belongs to everyone around me: my family, fans, team, & my @ljfamfoundation kids. #WeAreFamily #StriveForGreatness #RWTW.”
James returned to the Cavs in 2014 after winning two titles in four years with the Miami Heat. In June the Akron native led the Cavs to the NBA championship, rallying them from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors to break the city’s 52-year title drought.
In a post on its website, Sports Illustrated said James’ connection with his community proved to be the tiebreaker in a crowded field. Also considered were the Chicago Cubs, who came from 3-1 down to defeat the Indians in the World Series and end a 108-year drought; seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson; Leicester City, a 5,000-1 shot that won the English Premier League championship; and several Olympians.
The magazine also praised James for his willingness to speak out on social, political and league issues.
“James has recognized, and embraced, the platform sports gives him to be as powerful off the court as on it,” SI.com wrote.
Among his civic contributions, James committed to pay for college scholarships for members of the LeBron James Family Foundation “I PROMISE” program to attend the University of Akron. His pledge, which will cover yearly tuition and fees, could include about 2,300 students. The first recipients graduate from high school in the spring of 2021.