James has won the award four times, which ties a record set by Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods for the male award.
He finished with 78 points in the voting, which was conducted by 35 AP customers and editors, barely defeating Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who had 71 points. The third-place finisher was seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, who had 14 points.
James was named NBA Finals MVP after leading the Lakers to the championship over the Miami Heat, claiming his fourth NBA title and his fourth championship MVP award.
He moved into third place on the league's all-time scoring list with 33,643 points, and he paced the league in points and assists within the 2020 calendar year—a feat he also accomplished in 2018, per Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press.
In addition to his leadership within the game, James also mobilized upwards of 42,000 volunteers to work the polls for the 2020 U.S. presidential election while also encouraging turnout among Black and young voters through his More Than A Vote organization. His I PROMISE school in Akron, Ohio, has an enrollment of more than 450, and when the school was shut amid the coronavirus pandemic, James' team delivered meals to students' homes.
In addition, James is working on an affordable housing project and will offer financial health programming and job training.
"He’s one of the greatest leaders in sports," said teammate Kyle Kuzma.
The 35-year-old, who also won the AP award in 2013, 2016 and 2018, is back for more in 2020-21, with the re-tooled Lakers even stronger this season and the possibility of joining Team USA for the Tokyo Olympics this summer.