LeBron James Thanked His Idols Who ‘Sacrificed Everything’ So He Could Reach This Point

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While the Year 2016 has been a downright buzzkill for most everyone, LeBron James will probably look back on it with more than a little reverence. The Northeast Ohioan finally won one for the Land, as the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals after winning 73 games in the regular season with the first unanimous MVP in league history. He got a Finals MVP award, punctuated by his epic and unforgettable block on Andre Iguodala at the tail end of Game 7. His son is hitting half-court shots like it’s nothing. He’s sending a bunch more kids to college and giving high schoolers gifts. And he attended his first Ohio State vs. Michigan football game at the The Shoe.

Oh yeah, and he also earned himself another Sports Illustrated Sportsperson Of The Year award. In a ceremony on Monday night featuring the likes of Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jay-Z, James was honored for everything he’s done for Cleveland, the poise he carries himself with, and the fact that he’s really freaking good at basketball.

Jay-Z gave a brief speech to introduce James, including a shot at Phil Jackson for his “posse” comments. And then he called up the Man of the Hour himself, with Jay-Z’s own “Public Service Announcement” blasting as James made his way to the stage.

To the surprise of no one, LeBron’s speech was candid, thoughtful, and touching. SI has the full video on their site, but one section really stood out:

This award is for my wife. This award is for my mother. This award is for my three kids back home. This award is for my mother, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, my sister, my foundation and all 2,300 kids I got in my foundation. This award is for the great Muhammad Ali, for Bill Russell, for Jim Brown, for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Because at the end of the day, I’m not standing up here if you four gentlemen – Kareem, Jim Brown, Muhammad, Bill – don’t sit at that table in the 1960s. It wasn’t about you guys. It wasn’t about you guys. The most four dominant athletes at that time didn’t care what happened to them. They sacrificed everything that could’ve have happened to them, could’ve been stripped of everything they’d accomplished to that point. Can’t play football no more. Can’t play basketball no more. Can’t fight no more. But their calling and their reason for doing what they do was for a night like tonight.

That in 2016, in Brooklyn, New York, that we all can sit up here as African-Americans, as white Americans, as Mexicans, as people from the Dominican Republic – Big Papi, I see you – Francisco [Lindor], I see you, Puerto Rico, that we all can sit in one room and say, wow, this is an unbelievable night in not only sports but in life.

So as I stand up here, as the recipient of the 2016 Sportsperson of the Year, this isn’t about me. This is much bigger than me, and I just want to say thank you to everyone that showed up tonight.

LeBron, usually so forceful and confident with his public speaking, struggled a bit at times to get words out. As he said, he didn’t come up with prepared remarks, he spoke from the heart. It was easy to see how important that award was to him, but even more importantly the people in the room who were there with him to see him get that award.

As James put it, “it’s never about the individual, it’s always about the people behind them.” LeBron has a whole city – and a whole lot more people than that – behind him. He seems to really understand that.