LOS ANGELES — LeBron James may not have been a member of the Los Angeles Lakers for the entire decade, and was even (conceptually at least) one of the team’s biggest rivals at the start of the 2010s, even if his teams never actually met Kobe Bryant’s early decade squads in the NBA Finals.
Still, even Lakers fans have to admit — and probably would do so more willingly now that James is on their team — that no one singular player owned the last decade on and off the court quite like the self-proclaimed King. The Associated Press rewarded him for said dominance with its Male Athlete of the Decade award on Sunday:
James is The Associated Press male athlete of the decade, adding his name to a list that includes Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky and Arnold Palmer. He was a runaway winner in a vote of AP member sports editors and AP beat writers, easily outpacing runner-up Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.
“You add another 10 years of learning and adversity, pitfalls, good, great, bad, and any smart person who wants to grow will learn from all those experiences,” James, who turns 35 Monday, told the AP. “A decade ago, I just turned 25. I’m about to be 35 and I’m just in a better (place) in my life and have a better understanding of what I want to get out of life.”
Honi Ahmadian of Lakers Outsiders rounded up well why the 2010s unquestionably belonged to James, and to dominate for 10 years the way James has is special, as evidenced by not just all the accolades and championships James has won, but also by the fact that he is just one of two players left from his 2003 NBA Draft class (along with the only recently returned Carmelo Anthony).
Before the Lakers’ game against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel explained why James is still able to be so effective at age 34.
“I just think that first and foremost you have to be able to control the game from the mental aspect first. He was always able to do that as a young player, and particularly in his prime, but I think that’s boding well for him later in his career,” Vogel said.
“Also the round-the-clock attention that he gives to his body just to make sure that he’s doing everything the right way to put his body in the best position to have success.”
James has certainly done all that, and looks primed to do so for at least another year and a half before he has an option to opt-out of the final year of his Lakers contract and either retire or re-enter free agency. But until then, he’s showing no signs of slowing down in purple and gold, so even if Lakers fans are only getting James for the tail end of the decade he defined, it’s worth remembering that every time he suits up for this team and is as productive as he can be is really special.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.