LeBron James is The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year for the third time following what the publication called his “most significant year” even without winning the NBA championship.
James opened the “I Promise” school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, for at-risk children this year and continued to be an activist who won’t stick to just sports. He left the Cleveland Cavaliers again, this time for the Los Angeles Lakers, and has kept up his dominating play on the court.
He received 78 points in the ballots given to U.S. editors and news directors. Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox placed second with 46 points. The Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin was third, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was fourth and Triple Crown winner Justify came in fifth.
LeBron’s ‘most prized accomplishment’
The AP named James its athlete of the year in part for the “I Promise” school, which it calls his most prized accomplishment yet.
The I Promise School opened in July and is a public elementary school funded by the LeBron James Family Foundation. It has 240 third- and fourth-graders as its inaugural class. Families receive layers of support from putting food on the table to legal assistance.
“It is already such a success,” James said. “And it’s something that I never thought was possible until we made it happen. So yes, it’s been a pretty good year.”
James continues social justice work
James is mixing NBA stardom with Hollywood stardom. He started a documentary series called “Shut Up and Dribble” this season that focuses on athletes’ role in the current political and cultural world. “The Shop” features James talking to friends in a barbershop about life.
“The next star is out there,” James told the AP. “And I’m not just talking sports. Doctor, nurse, pilots, they’re out there. The one thing they need is knowing that people care about them and care about their lives. I believe it’s part of my job, and I take it very seriously, to try to tap into that.”
James stays dominant on the court
There was no NBA title for the superstar this season, but his play is still strong. Through Thursday’s AP announcement James has played 102 games in 2018. He averaged 28.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 8.4 assists.
James, 33, suffered a slight left groin strain Christmas day against the Golden State Warriors. He’s listed as day-to-day.
James, a four-time MVP, beat out 2018 title winners and season MVPs. The second highest point earners, Betts and Ovechkin, each won titles with the Red Sox and Capitals, respectively.
He’s the third man to win the award at least three times. Lance Armstrong won from 2002 to 2005, the years he won the Tour de France (though they were later stripped). Tiger Woods won in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2006. He won at least one major in each of those years. Michael Jordan earned the award every year he won the NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls in 1991, 1992 and 1993.
And James’ first two AP awards were in years he won an NBA championship: in 2013 with the Miami Heat and 2016 with the Cavs.
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