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LeBron James is the 2016 ‘Sports Illustrated’ Sportsperson of the Year

The Cavs forward and his three NBA titles are being honored on Dec. 12

LeBron James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers paid off. He rallied the Cavaliers from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals to deliver the city of Cleveland its first major sports championship since 1964. And now, he’s being honored.

On Thursday, Sports Illustrated announced that James is the 2016 Sportsperson of the Year. He will be honored for the accolade at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Dec. 12.

“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 Thursday. ” … You guys know how I am about individual awards and things of that nature — it doesn’t hit me or nothing to that magnitude. But I’m honored that they have chosen me.

“I’m more happy for my family, my kids, for my wife, my mom and for my foundation, for the kids that I represent and the kids that use me as a role model and an inspiration. I’m more happy for them. For me, it’s an honor — I’m happy about it — but it doesn’t hit me. I don’t know. Seriously, I really don’t know how to feel about it.”

The 31-year-old returned to Cleveland in 2014 after four seasons in Miami, where he led the Heat to four-straight NBA Finals and two titles, making the Cavs’ win his third NBA title.

“It’s hard to remember a year with such a crowded field of Sportsperson candidates,” said Chris Stone, editor-in-chief of Sports Illustrated. “But in the end, LeBron James was the clear choice. It’s not just the way he took over the NBA Finals — though that performance was epic. It’s that LeBron was also carrying the weight of that promise he made when he returned to Cleveland in 2014. On court and off, James was the athlete in full in 2016.”

James and his LeBron James Family Foundation recently announced a $2.5 million donation to the Muhammad Ali exhibit at the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. The exhibit honors Ali’s legacy in athletics, activism and beyond. James has also partnered with the University of Akron to guarantee four-year scholarships to qualifying children in the Akron I PROMISE Network program. There are currently more than 1,100 students enrolled, the equivalent of more than $41 million in support.

His Wheels for Education program supports at-risk third-grade students in the inner city and follows them all the way through graduation and beyond. Last month, the foundation established the I PROMISE Institute, aimed at making the transition to college easier for these students and their families by providing the resources and support they need as they pursue higher education.

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Since 1954, Sports Illustrated has presented the Sportsperson of the Year award to the player, coach or team who best personifies the ideals of athletic achievement and sportsmanship. James, who was also SI’s Sportsperson of the Year in 2012, is only the second two-time winner of the award (Tiger Woods: 1996, 2000).

ESPN and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.