GOLD WITH ENVY: LeBron James has always been a gracious winner, but his knack for being a sore loser is just one of many reasons the Sportsman of the Year went to the wrong guy in 2012. Photo courtesy Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With the amount of prestige Sports Illustrated carries, their annual award, the Sportsman of the Year, has become a bigger and bigger honor with each new recipient.

Like an MVP award that embraces all disciplines of athletics, the SOTY as it’s so often referred to, should not be taken lightly and, consequently, it’s recipient should make more than just a marginal amount of sense.

Which is why I was left scratching my head when the magazine announced this year’s Sportsman was none other than King James himself.

Their reasoning? Well it’s right there on the website. “NBA Champion. MVP. Olympic gold. Nobody had a better year…than LeBron James.”

Okay, so we’ve got three points as to why he’s the 2012 Sportsman of the Year. Allow me to dismiss them one by one. Let’s start with the easiest: MVP. Like I already said, to be named Sportsman of the Year is sort of like to be named the ultimate MVP, so to use a league MVP crown as basis seems a tad bit tacky. But even if we go with it, HE’S the MVP you go with? Correct me if I’m wrong, but Miguel Cabrera hit for the Triple Crown, a feat that hadn’t been done in nearly half a century, did he not? Ah, but he didn’t win a world series. Wait, what’s that? I’m being told now that the other league’s MVP in fact did. Darn it.

BACK IN BLACK: LeBron has spent much of this year trying to change his reputation as the villain of the NBA, and he’s been rewarded with plenty of accomplishments in the process. Photo courtesy Sports Illustrated

Which brings us to our next point: NBA Champion. Yes, the king finally got a ring. The operative word there? FINALLY. How can we celebrate a feat that we, as a sports nation, not only anticipated, but believed was long overdue. If we’re handing out SOTY’s for accomplishments we expect of big talents, how about we name the Yankees Sportsmen of the Year simply on the notion that they made it back to the NLCS? If you want to talk about real, genuinely impressive title runs, how in the hell do you not bring in the Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings? Maybe if Quick had been lucky enough to play lights out hockey in the same year he medaled in the Winter Olympics, this would be an entirely different story.

Ah, yes, and that’s the last point. LeBron won Olympic gold. Yes, James won a basketball tournament so top heavy with premium talent it made the NBA actually look like it had some parity for once. But, since Sports Illustrated brought in the Olympics to this year’s SOTY conversation (and rightfully so), let’s talk about those Olympians. I’m going to rattle off just a few things that happened in London. Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian EVER. Bradley Wiggins crushed the time trial and became the most decorated medalist in British history. And, speaking of British history, Briton Andy Murray won Tennis Men’s Gold AT Wimbledon. And the big Olympic feat we’re going to celebrate here, again, is the one everyone expected all along? Come on.

In each of the separate arguments, there are more than a handful of better, more-qualified candidates for 2012’s Sportsmen of the Year.

Those defending James’ selection would say that, while that may be, the body of work, as a whole, is greater. And, again, I disagree. With Phelps, what other major swimming competition does the average sports fan care about? What DIDN’T Phelps accomplish that held him back? He didn’t win ALL his races again? He dropped one from his program? LeBron James’ year wasn’t so good that it outweighed all of that.

With Miggy, yes, he didn’t win a title. Okay, but Buster Posey did. In fact, Buster Posey’s year was a virtual facsimile to that of LeBron’s. An MVP title AND a championship. Sure, he didn’t compete in the Olympics, but that’s because the IOC removed baseball from the Olympic Games. You can call me crazy, but I’m not going to penalize him for that.

And while we’re talking about Buster Posey, let’s not forget this is his second title in three years. And that year in between, he had a season-ending leg fracture. Which, oh by the way, he bounced back from with this MVP/World Series year. The reason, Sports Illustrated, you gave the SOTY to Derek Jeter in 2009 was pretty much because he won his fifth World Series. Five! And you’re giving it to LeBron because he has ONE!

GAME OF THRONES: Much to the dismay of many sports fans, LeBron James is, in fact, on top of his career. Photo courtesy Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Now, we’ve gotten this far without even mentioning the REAL knock against LeBron: the “good guy” factor. Drew Brees was Sportsman of the Year two years ago in part, according to SI, for his charitable work in helping to rebuild New Orleans. Three years before THAT, the magazine gave the award to Brett Favre for, among other things, his “perseverance and his passion” for the game. A few years later, he was texting pictures of his junk to reporters, but that’s beside the point.

So, if not being a total jerk plays into being Sportsman of the Year, how are you going to give it to the guy that, A, left his home team in horrendous fashion as a championship chaser and, B, told off basketball fans rooting against him with one of the most immature, alienating rants ever given by an athlete of James’ caliber? I, for one, don’t see any reasoning whatsoever.

Of course, none of that matters. LeBron IS Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year and my stringent objections, no matter how cogent and fact-based I believe them to be, will largely fall on deaf ears. James can throw another trophy onto his South Beach embarrassment of riches, a treasure trove of precious metals that he probably doesn’t deserve.

But, then again, what king in history ever did?

NOTE: This story was originally posted on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
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