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.”
Usain Bolt of Jamaica was third for dominating the sprints at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics; soccer superstar Lionel Messi was fourth; and Michael Phelps — the U.S. swimmer who retired as history’s most decorated Olympian with 28 medals, 23 of them gold — was fifth.
James was revealed as the winner Sunday, one day after Serena Williams was announced as the AP Female Athlete of the Decade. In his 17th season, he’s on pace to lead the league in assists for the first time while remaining among the NBA’s scoring leaders.