LeBron James was named Male Athlete of the Decade by The Associated Press on Sunday, an honor voted on by AP member sports editors and writers.
In the 2010s, James won three NBA championships – earning the NBA Finals most valuable player award each time – plus three league MVP awards and an Olympic gold medal.
In the voting, he topped the No. 2 finisher, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was followed by sprinter Usain Bolt, soccer star Lionel Messi and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.
James, who turns 35 on Monday, also has racked up significant off-court achievements in the past decade, both in the business and social avenues and with the opening of a school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.
James, in his second year with the Los Angeles Lakers, will be well remembered in a decade of momentous accomplishments for two defining moments.
First was "The Decision," a made-for-TV special in which he announced in July 2010 that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers – the team that drafted him – for the Miami Heat. Fans in his native northeastern Ohio burned his jerseys in anger.
All was forgotten in June 2016, however, after James returned to the Cavaliers after four years in Miami and led them to their first NBA championship in his second season back in Cleveland.
Entering play Sunday, James has played in 1,229 career regular-season games. He's scored 33,334 points – fourth all-time in NBA history – and the next decade will see him pass at least another Los Angeles great, Kobe Bryant, who is third on the list with 33,643 points and behind only NBA Hall of Fame members Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.
Tennis superstar Serena Williams was named Female Athlete of the Decade by The Associated Press.
Williams, winner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, won 12 of those majors over the past decade – no female player has won more than three over the same span – including a run of four in a row from the U.S. Open in 2014 through Wimbledon in 2015, for her second self-named "Serena Slam." She also was the runner-up another seven times at major tournaments over the past decade, including four of the seven she has entered since returning to action after having a baby in 2017.
Finishing second among voters was gymnast Simone Biles, the 2019 AP Female Athlete of the Year, followed by swimmer Katie Ledecky in third, and skiers Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
"When the history books are written, it could be that the great Serena Williams is the greatest athlete of all time. ... I like to call it the 'Serena Superpowers' – that champion's mindset. Irrespective of the adversity and the odds that are facing her, she always believes in herself," said Stacey Allaster, USTA chief executive and former WTA CEO, via the Associated Press.
"Whether it was health issues; coming back; having a child; almost dying from that – she has endured it all and she is still in championship form. Her records speak for themselves."
Williams, 38, spent three and a half years straight at No. 1 in the WTA rankings. She also became the oldest No. 1 player in WTA history and tied Steffi Graf's record for most consecutive weeks at the top.
In all, Williams reached the finals at 19 of the 33 majors she competed in and collected 37 singles titles over the past decade (she boasts a career total of 72 singles titles) – 11 more than anyone else.
Off the court, her celebrity status has given her a platform to champion women's rights and call attention to health care inequality for black women in the United States.
Williams is currently No. 10 in the WTA rankings. She last played in the finals of the U.S. Open in September where she lost to 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu.