LeBron James

LeBron James of the Miami Heat shoots a free throw during a game against the Charlotte Bobcats at American Airlines Arena on Dec. 1. (Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)

LeBron James won the NBA most valuable player award and led the Miami Heat to the league title in 2013.

In other words, it was just another year for the basketball superstar.

Or at least it looked that way until the final week. James was named the Associated Press' male athlete of the year Thursday, winning the honor for the first time and joining Larry Byrd and Michael Jordan as the only basketball players to earn the award in its 82-year history.

“I don't think I've changed much this year,” James told the AP. “I've just improved and continued to improve on being more than just as a basketball player. I've matured as a leader, as a father, as a husband, as a friend.”


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James got 31 of the 96 votes cast in a poll of news organizations. Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who was named Sports Illustrated's sportsman of the year earlier this month, was second with 20 votes, followed by NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson with seven.

“I'm chasing something and it's bigger than me as a basketball player,” James said. “I believe my calling is much higher than being a basketball player. I can inspire people. Youth is huge to me. If I can get kids to look at me as a role model, as a leader, a superhero … those things mean so much, and that's what I think I was built for. I was put here for this lovely game of basketball, but I don't think this is the biggest role that I'm going to have.”

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