Throughout much of his NBA career, LeBron James has been regarded as arguably the best player in the league. He took his legacy up a notch over the last decade that saw him reach the highest heights that he had not seen in his first several years in the NBA. That has put him among the most successful athletes in the past 10 years that has him among many of the top players from their respective sports, which his success has earned him the AP Male Athlete of the Decade. Here are some reasons why James deserves that nod over the likes of Tom Brady, among others.
LeBron James reached eight straight NBA Finals
Let’s get the first and most obvious talking point for James out of the way first as these last 10 years saw him do something no other has done. He accomplished that feat with two different franchises with the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers during that stretch. It also made him the first player to lead two different franchises to four NBA Finals appearances.
That saw him become just the sixth player to play in eight straight NBA Finals, with the other five being players that played for the Boston Celtics dating back to 1950s-60s teams. James was the driving force of each of those teams, especially the last four years with the Cavaliers as that also included them winning their first NBA title.
Although he has struggled to get over the .500 mark in championship wins during that streak, he did earn three NBA titles with a Finals MVP award in each instance. James did something that no other player accomplished in more than four decades after those dominant Celtics teams.
Best Player in the NBA
During the past 10 years, it could be argued that a few players had some standout seasons during that span. That list could include the likes of Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
However, James had remained in the top tier of that conversation through the course of that decade. He has the most MVP awards while finishing in the top four in voting for the honor all but once over the last decade. That includes placing second twice and third on three occasions.
James had a dominant four-year stretch with the Heat that encapsulated four All-Star Game nods, two MVP awards, two NBA titles, two Finals MVPs, four First-Team All-NBA selections, three All-Defensive First-Team nods. He had a strong tenure with the Cavaliers that saw him earn an MVP award, five All-Star Game nods, five First-Team All-NBA selections, an NBA title, a Finals MVP and an All-Defensive Second Team nods.
He may have been hampered to begin his Los Angeles Lakers career with injuries. Still, he has continued to play at an elite level heading to his second All-Star game selection with the franchise while putting up another phenomenal season.
LeBron James still playing at an elite level
There were a few other incredible male athletes candidates such as Brady, Usain Bolt, Lionel Messi, and Michael Phelps. However, only Messi has been able to match James’ longevity over the decade to perform at an elite level.
Brady has had a tremendous amount of success with three Super Bowl wins in five appearances over the decade, but his play at his craft hasn’t matched the level that James has maintained. Granted, the Patriots quarterback is at a different stage of his career, but sticking strictly to this decade, the 15-time All-Star has been the most successful.
No player has won more games or MVP awards than him in the NBA over this stretch. What may have been factored is that James is still playing at an elite level despite being 17 years into his career. The 34-year-old is putting together an impressive campaign in his 17th year as he’s averaging 25.5 along with a career-high and league-best 10.5 assists, and 7.5 rebounds per game. All of that has helped spearhead the Lakers being in first place in the Western Conference at a 25-7 record.
All of these accolades and his current playing performance over the last 10 years, it’s hard to choose anybody else but him as the Male Athlete of the Decade.