"Williams's status as a global icon was never more clear than it was in 2015," the magazine said in a statement. "She appeared in movies and TV shows, guest-edited magazines and published essays and counts many of the world's most influential people as her friends. She has utilized her broad platform to advocate for racial justice, gender equality and equal access to education around the world."
Add all that to Williams's recent athletic accomplishments, and it's easy to see why she was a no-brainer for this year's accolade. "The tennis superstar dominated the sport by winning three major titles and completing her second 'Serena Slam'—she won four consecutive Grand Slam titles dating back to the 2014 U.S. Open," SI said. Not to mention, she won 53 of her 56 matches and was ranked No. 1 every week for the second year in a row. And the most impressive part? Williams, 34, accomplished all this while battling a string of injuries, and still produced "one of the greatest late-career runs in the history of any sport."
"This year was spectacular," Williams said in a statement. "For Sports Illustrated to recognize my hard work, dedication and sheer determination with this award gives me hope to continue on and do better. As I always say, it takes a village—not just one person. This is not just an accomplishment for me, but for my whole team and all my fans. I am beyond honored."
As SI's Sportsperson of the Year, Williams joins an elite group that includes such icons as Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Michael Jordan, Billie Jean King, LeBron James, and Joe Montana.