TIME magazine will announce its 2020 Person of the Year on an NBC special set for Thursday night at 10 p.m. ET. In the morning, editors from the magazine appeared on the TODAY show and MSNBC’s Morning Joe to announce the four finalists.
On the shortlist are President-Elect Joe Biden, current President Donald Trump, Frontline Health Care Workers and Dr. Anthony Fauci, and the Movement for Racial Justice. Remember that the premise behind the honor is to highlight an individual, group, or trend that had the most impact on the country or the world during the past calendar year. (Last year’s winner was environmental activist Greta Thunberg.)
But the magazine is also breaking down its annual honor into further categories, such as Athlete of the Year. For 2020, TIME’s choice is NBA superstar LeBron James.
— TIME (@TIME) December 10, 2020
Of course, James and his Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 NBA Championship, doing so under the unprecedented circumstances of playing the restarted 2019-20 season in a bubble setup at Orlando’s Wide World of Sports complex. The NBA resumed its season after shutting down for nearly four months due to COVID-19 concerns.
During the 2020 playoffs, James — who will turn 36 on Dec. 30 — nearly averaged a triple-double with 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. He won the NBA Finals MVP honors for the fourth time in his career to go with his fourth championship.
But as you might expect, TIME‘s decision wasn’t solely based on James’s on-court achievements this past year. The magazine highlighted him launching More Than a Vote, a non-profit organization dedicated to getting more Black voters to the polls and the effort to provide more polling places for potential voters, such as converting NBA arenas into massive polling stations to accommodate greater numbers.
Partnering with dozens of other athletes, entertainers, and media personalities, More Than a Vote helped recruit more than 40,000 young people — notably in cities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Milwaukee in important swing states — to help replace older election workers who couldn’t contribute because of COVID-19 risks.
As Sean Gregory wrote for TIME, James took a leading role in the effort to draw attention to racial violence throughout the country, spurring awareness and activism to the killings of young Black people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Jacob Blake.
“It was the highest-profile example of the surge in activism that spread across the sports world in 2020,” Gregory wrote.
“Spurred by a pandemic that has disproportionately taken the lives and livelihoods of people of color and by police killings of unarmed Black Americans, everyone from college athletes to tennis stars to race-car drivers to hockey players did things like speak out against racial injustice, join marches and even lead the temporary shutdowns of major sporting events.”
James was also honored this week by Sports Illustrated as one of its Sportspersons of the Year, one of several activist athletes (joining Patrick Mahomes, Breanna Stewart, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and Naomi Osaka) for their efforts against social injustice and the COVID-19 pandemic.