After leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA championship, an exercise that involved coming from a 3-1 deficit to defeat a historically great opponent in the Golden State Warriors, the editors of sports illustrated had this to say:
Every month, it seemed, unlocked a new watershed moment, a little bit bigger and more dramatic than the previous one, a sort of Russian nesting doll in reverse. Who, in January, would have been so bold to divine that both the Cubs and a team from Cleveland would win a championship, or that a 5,000-1 shot would win the English Premier League championship? Other, less shocking events—the continued Olympic excellence of Bolt, Phelps, Ledecky and Biles; a record-tying seventh NASCAR championship for Jimmie Johnson—bolstered a powerful argument for this being the Greatest Year in Sports.
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.
A prodigy who had surpassed all the high expectations placed on his broad shoulders, his departure from Cleveland to Miami had depressed the economy of a region leaving many business in shambles. So even though his return to his homeland was heralded as the coming of the saviour to once again resurrect a moribund franchise from the depths of despair, his return was much more than that. It was the return of an instant economic stimulus for North East Ohio, guaranteeing hundreds of millions of dollars of transactions to pour into the economy of the region just by his mere presence in its down town arena.
That within two years of making this comeback he will lead the pathetic organisation he returned to to the summit of the NBA against an opponent the strength of which Michael Jordan never faced in his life made the race for the sports person of the year a foregone conclusion.
Four regular season MVP’s and three finals MVP’s, none of the megastars previous achievements came close to what he delivered for Cleveland this year, a region known more for its heartbroken failures than for any of its meagre successes. It is a stunning return to the top of the sports world by an athlete maligned and ridiculed in equal measure by a rabid fandom egged on by news personalities in search of ratings after he made his decision to as he put it, “take my talents to South Beach.”