It's actually astounding how much can happen and how much changes over the course of a decade. We're nearing the end of the 2010s and we've seen a slew of all-time greats retire, we've seen the landscape of the NBA change numerous times as well as the style of play. However, there's been one constant at the heart of it all, and that's the dominance of LeBron James.
At the start of the decade, James became a national villain after "The Decision," where he announced he was taking his talents to South Beach and spurning his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Fast forward 10 years later, and James has won three championships, including a ring for Cleveland, three league MVPs, and in his 17th season in the league has shown no signs of slowing down. So it's no surprise that the Associated Press named LeBron as the Athlete of the Decade, because quite frankly, who else has had as dominant of a decade as he has?
"You add another 10 years of learning and adversity, pitfalls, good, great, bad, and any smart person who wants to grow will learn from all those experiences," James told the AP. "A decade ago, I just turned 25. I'm about to be 35 and I'm just in a better (place) in my life and have a better understanding of what I want to get out of life."
James beat out Tom Brady, Usain Bolt, Lionel Messi and Michael Phelps for the award, and ahead of his 35th birthday on Monday, is playing some of his best basketball in his career. He has the Los Angeles Lakers in first place in the Western Conference with a 25-7 record, and is averaging 25.5 points, a career-high 10.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds per game. He's 309 points away from passing Kobe Bryant on the all-time points list, and while James doesn't try to calculate it, he does envision himself breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's record for most points ever.
"I would be lying if I said I don't see it," James said. "Obviously I'm not trying to say, 'OK, well if I play this amount of time, if I average this' ... I'm not doing that because I've never done that with my career. I've always just kind of let it happen. Whatever happens, happens. But I see it. I do see it."
No other athlete has ruled this decade more than LeBron has, both on and off the court. His NBA resume speaks for itself, but off the court, he's accomplishing so much more.
In the past 10 years, LeBron has created an expansive business empire. He owns a minority stake in the English Premier League football club Liverpool and started the production company SpringHill Entertainment, which launched the digital media company Uninterrupted. He's starred in or produced numerous television shows, movies and documentaries, and most impressive of all, opened a school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.
He's used his voice and platform to speak out against racial injustice and police brutality, has shown support for Colin Kaepernick and isn't afraid to voice his opinion, even if it's met with criticism.
"I don't live in regret," James said. "There's no moment in this last decade that I wish I could have back. If a situation was bad or you feel like you could have done better, then I learned from it."
LeBron owned the 2010s, and while he may be getting older in age, a decade from now he could very well be in the conversation for Athlete of the Decade again, and it wouldn't be the least bit surprising at all.