NBA star LeBron James’ impact and influence spans far beyond the basketball court and the Ohio native will be recognized for his efforts towards driving societal change. James has been named TIME’s 2020 Athlete of the Year, the NBA reported.
Aside from displaying leadership on the court—leading the Los Angeles Lakers to their 17th championship—James has utilized his platform to uplift and empower disenfranchised communities. Earlier this year amid the public health crisis, he transformed his Akron-based I Promise School into a resource center to provide families facing financial barriers with care packages that included food, clothing and toiletries. The school also offered students and their loved ones shelter and medical resources.
As the country geared up for this year’s historic presidential election, he launched a nonprofit dubbed More Than A Vote to combat voter suppression and encourage individuals to exercise their right to vote. The organization collaborated with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund for a poll recruitment effort dubbed “We Got Next.” The nonprofits focused on recruitment in predominantly Black electoral districts; determined to address the shortage of poll workers in communities of color. James has also used SpringHill Entertainment—a multimedia production company that he founded with his business partner Maverick Carter—as an avenue to amplify diverse narratives. He has continually spoken out about injustices faced by the Black community.
He says he’s humbled to receive the honor. His TIME cover image was painted by 14-year-old artist Tyler Gordon.
James was also recently named Sports Illustrated’s 2020 Person of the Year. He says it’s important for athletes to use their platforms to evoke change. “It’s being able to go out there and not only perform at a high level in what we do as far as our profession, but also being able to change lives and create opportunities, empower people and inspire people off the floor,” he told the Los Angeles Times after receiving the award. “I’m very humbled. It means a lot to my family and my friends and the kids in my foundation and my school back home and my city of Akron where I come from.”