Mendoza: LeBron surpasses Jordan

Al Mendoza
·2 min read

“If it rains, it pours,” goes the saying.

LeBron James has won yet another plum: the Male Athlete of the Year award from the venerated Associated Press.

First handed out in 1931, James’s fourth AP trophy tied him with cyclist Lance Armstrong and golfer Tiger Woods for the most wins by men. Michael Jordan has three.

The three women with at least four AP trophies were Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias with six, and tennis’s Serena Williams five and Chris Evert four.

Zaharias was a one-of-a-kind athlete, who excelled in golf, basketball, baseball and track and field (Wikipedia).

At 21, Didrikson won two gold medals in track and field in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics before turning to professional golf, helping found the Ladies Professional Golf Association and winning 10 LPGA championships and 90 tournaments worldwide. In 1938, Didrikson married George Zaharias, a wrestler and part-time actor from Denver, Colorado.

Didrikson was born on June 26, 1911 in Port Arthur, Texas, and died on Sept. 27, 1956, at the John Sealy hospital in Galveston, Texas, after a three-year bout with cancer.

Will her AP record ever be surpassed, if not matched?

With her five AP awards, tennis great Serena Williams is by far the closest to matching it. At 39 (she turns 40 on Sept. 26), Serena’s still pounding the courts. I would be the least surprised if she gets to pocket a sixth AP plum—but first, she must at least win two of the four majors in 2021. A tall order, of course.

And as to James’s chances, well, with him being two AP plums shy off Zaharias’ collection of six, he must produce more wondrous, if not miraculous, results in the next two NBA seasons. Turning 36 on Dec. 30 (Thursday, PH time), Father Time could be fast catching up with the King—on the floor, that is.

Off the floor, here’s James’s take: “I can do many more things off the floor to inspire, to cultivate people, to bring people together.”

In a way, that may help—as 2020 would prove. Aside from building a school in his hometown Akron, Ohio, James took a leading role in racial causes, embellishing the luster of his NBA performance.

Will he shine some more next year? We’ll see.