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Top 50: Athletes of the Decade

Posted on December 12, 2009 at 7:23 PM

These are my picks for the top 50 athletes from the past ten years. Some are well known and some are not (because they compete in less popular sports). I considered the athletes based on accomplishments, skills, and athletic ability. Let me know what you think.


50) Guo Jingjing (Diving) - Won seven out of ten world championships including four olympic golds.

Valentina Vezzali (Fencing) - Won an olympic gold medal in all three olympics.

* Winning multiple olympic gold medals is not too shabby, but these two are not well known enough to go higher on the list.


49) Torii Hunter (Baseball) - "The Homerun Thief" has won a gold glove (best fielder) award nine years in this decade for his outstanding ability to rob homeruns.


48) Allen Iverson - (Basketball) - Led all NBA players this decade with over 30 points per game (with limited amounts of practice).


47) Vince Young - (Football) - Led Texas to a 28-1 record during his college career and in the 2006 National Championship Game, he had 200 rushing yards and 4 rushing scores in a Texas win, which isn't so impressive until you remember that he's a quarterback who also had 247 passing yards in the game. He also showed his value this past NFL season, when he took a previously 0-6 Titans without him on a six game winning streak.


46) Michael Strahan - (Football) - Won Defensive Player of the Year with over 22 sacks in a season and carried the Giants to the biggest upset in Superbowl history.


45) Vince Carter - (Basketball) - Can almost jump out of the arena (he's working on that for next decade). He is the best dunker in NBA history and completely demolished the field in the NBA dunk contest.


44) Kurt Warner - (Football) - Was part of thre Rams' offense that was so unstoppable it was called "The Greatest Show on Turf." Kurt also has performed well in the Super-bowl, recording the three best passing games in Super-bowl history in three appearences.


43) Vladamir Guererro - (Baseball) - Vlad-G has won seven Silver Slugger (best hitter) awards.


42) Rafael Nadal - (Tennis) - The only tennis player whois even close to Federer as the best tennis player in the world. He actually already has beaten Federer in six different Grand Slams.


41) Lisa Leslie - (Basketball) - Has led her team to two championships and won finals MVP both times. She is also the first ever WNBA player to dunk in a game (I love dunks!)


40) Terrell Owens - (Football) - TO has been sort of a jerk with his touchdown celebratrions and complaints about his quarterbacks, but he's somehow found enough time to both choreograph tochdown celebrations,and study enough film to get himself the actual touchdowns themselves.


39) Rhonaldino - (Soccer) - Amazing ballhandler and has two FIFA Player ofthe Year awards to show for it.


38) Adrian Peterson - (Football) - At the line ofscrimmage he plows over 300-pound linemen, and once he gets by them, he wins every footrace with the defensive backs. You could make the argument that he shouldn't be on this list because he's only been playing for three years, but in those three years, he's averaged 100 yards per game and five yards per run. He even ran for an NFL record 296 yards is one game.


37) Dwayne Wade - (Basketball) - Won the NBA Skills Challenge twice because he is so versatile. He blocks shots, is fast, and a good shooter and ball-handler.


36) Larry Fitzgerald - (Football) - On top of being able to catch the ball over any defensive player in the NFL, he had an outstanding college career, setting an all-time college record with 18 straight games with a score.


35) Jason Kidd - (Basketball) - The only player in NBA history to record at least 15,000 points, 7,000 rebounds, and 10,000 assists in his career.


34) Ed Reed - (Football) - Reed has been a beast on defense, helping the Ravens win a superbowl, and has had well over 1000 interception return yards this decade.


33) Ray Lewis - (Football) - Ray has won two defensive player of the year awards, leads the league in tackles over this decade, and also carried the Ravens to a Super-bowl win and won the Super-bowl MVP himself.


32) Brett Favre - (Football) - An example of an old guy (40 years old) still performing consistently.


31) Steve Nash - (Basketball) - A two time MVP by dropping dimes (assists), makes all of his teammates better, and has ridiculous shooting percentages. (My next article will be about how when players go to play with Nash, their stats skyrocket.)


30) Christiano Rhonaldo - (Soccer) - Has consistently been in the running for FIFA Player of the Year and is agressive on offense, taking 1.8 shots on goal per game.


29) Kevin Garnett - (Basketball) - The Big Ticket had eight straight seasons averaging 20+ points and 10+ rebounds.


28) Sidney Crosby - (Hockey) - A team player who records a lot of assists and is the youngest player ever to: Score 100 points, score 200 points, be an all-star, win an MVP, and captain a championship team.


27) Annika Sorenstam - (Golf) - Dominated women's golf winning eight majors in this decade when the next most by any woman is three.


26) Misty May Treanor and Kerry Walsh - (Volleyball) - Won the beach volleyball gold in both the 2004 and 2008 olympic games in which they didn't lose a single set in either year. (I did mean to type set. Not match, set. WOW!)


25) Marvin Harrison - (Football) - Holds the record for most catches in one season, a two season span, a three season span, a four season span, a six season span, and a seven season span.


24) Lionel Messi - (Soccer) - Came in second in the FIFA Player of the Year voting twice, but then finally won this past year. I appreciate persistance.


23) Derek Jeter - (Baseball) - Has a .317 batting average for the decade and won four Gold Glove (best fielder) awards at the hardest position in baseball to play.


22) Marta Vieira de Silva - (Soccer) - Won FIFA Player of the Year four consecutive years.


21) Alexander Ovechkin - (Hockey) - Scores a ridiculous amount of goals and has won two consecutive MVP's. (What's suprising is that he's not Canadian!)


20) Michelle Kwan - (Skating) - Won half of the world championships held in this decade.


19) Randy Moss - (Football) - Recorded 23 touchdowns (an NFL record) in one season and holds six other touchdown related records.


18) Alex Rodriguez - (Baseball) - A-rod is the only player to record over 400 homeruns in this decade.


17) Serena Williams - (Tennis) - Has dominated women's tennis with ten grand-slam wins.


16) Mariano Rivera - (Baseball) - Moe is the all-time ERA leader among relievers. He also has the lowest post-season ERA ever among all pitchers which has lead the Yankees to two championships this decade. When he comes out onto the field with the lead, you can basically stop watching the game and start celebrating a Yankees victory.


15) Ichiro Suzuki - (Baseball) - Won the Gold Glove (best fielder) award in every year of his career, records 38 stolen bases per year which shows pure athleticism, and he's been in the top 2 in the MLB in hits every year of his career.


14) LaDainian Tomlinson - (Football) - Leads all running backs in this decade in touchdowns and has consistantly been the most physical back in the league.


13) Shaquille O'neal - (Basketball) - "The Shaqtus" is the most athletic 300-pound man ever on earth. He's also won four championships.


12) Tim Duncan - (Basketball) - Timmy's won three championships and has been an all-star every year of the decade.


11) Martin Brodeur - (Hockey) - Set every single all-time record for goalies: Most wins, most shutouts, most overtime wins, most games, and most game winning goals by a goalie... (I stopped there because I got tired of typing the word "most").


10) Usain Bolt - (Track) - Usain is insane. He's shaved more time off the 100m dash world record in one year than the entire world has for the past 20 years when it seemed like the records were approaching the asypmtote.


9) Lebron James - (Basketball) - An athletic specimen because he is fast, strong, and can jump almost four feet high. He's averaged 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game consistently over the past five years.


8) Albert Pujols - (Baseball) - A 3-time MVP with an outstanding .628 slugging percentage.


7) Lance Armstrong - (Cycling) - Won the Tour de France a whopping 7 straight years.


6) Peyton Manning - (Football) - Has a great sense for what is happening on the field and runs an offense with audibles on almost every play.


5) Tom Brady - (Football) - Entering the NFL as a fourth-string quarterback, Brady was put under the spotlight when starter Drew Bledsoe got injured. He performed so well, that the Patriots stuck with him as their quarterback and he delivered, winning his first ten playoffs games and eventually three super-bowls in four years. He also holds an NFL record with a +42 difference between touchdowns and interceptions in a season.


4) Michael Phelps - (Swimming) - Has 14 olympic gold medals in eight different events and currently holds six world records. All of his gold medals together probably weigh more than I do.


3) Kobe Bryant - (Basketball) - Kobe can shoot over any defender and is practically unstoppable when it comes down to the clutch.


2) Tiger Woods - (Golf) - Has won 14 majors and is nearing becoming the greatest golfer ever.


1) Roger Federer - (Tennis) - Has won 15 grand slam titles and is the best all time in his sport (Tiger came close to being #1, but he plays golf).


Disagree with my picks? Click here to comment on the article page.


Categories: Top 10, Other Sports

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26 Comments

Reply Lev to boss
9:28 AM on October 14, 2012 
Kobe is clearly the best basketball player of the decade, but Federer is clearly the best tennis player of ALL TIME, so that's why he gets the edge.
Reply Lev to boss
9:27 AM on October 14, 2012 
Kobe is clearly the best basketball player of the decade, but Federer is the best tennis player ALL TIME, so that's why Federer gets the edge.
Reply boss
7:32 PM on October 6, 2012 
im sorry but kobe is number 1 he has dominated ever since the 03 season and deserves to be number 1 on this list and is also one of the most clutch ATHLETES EVER! friggin awesome athlete
Reply Lev to Miriam
7:52 AM on June 19, 2010 
No, he's still at #42 for last decade. He's started off this decade well though, but you'll have to wait nine and a half years to find out his ranking for this decade.
Reply Miriam
3:40 PM on June 10, 2010 
So now that Nadal took the French open, and he's ranked #1 in the world, does he get to move up from #42? He's one of the most exciting players to watch because he is dynamic, tries so hard, and really works for the wins.
Reply Lev to Miriam
5:38 PM on June 4, 2010 
Miriam says...
I'm impressed, Lev. Good job. Just one question?if Nadal beats Federer sometimes, how come he's down around 42?


Nadal is down around 42 because this is a top 50 list of the entire decade, not half of it. Nadal really only beats Federer on clay anyway, his best surface. Good question though, I guess he could be moved up a bit.
Reply Miriam
10:37 PM on June 3, 2010 
I'm impressed, Lev. Good job. Just one question?if Nadal beats Federer sometimes, how come he's down around 42?
Reply Kyle
10:36 AM on February 20, 2010 
Sacha says...
What about college sports? College football and college basketball are both extremely popular. Tebow won a Heisman and two national titles. He is probably the best college quarterback in history, and receives no recognition! Otherwise good picks.

College is much different than MLB, NBA, NFL,.... The pressure is different, and when you get to the big leagues, you're playing on a whole new level.
Reply Sacha
5:13 PM on January 28, 2010 
What about college sports? College football and college basketball are both extremely popular. Tebow won a Heisman and two national titles. He is probably the best college quarterback in history, and receives no recognition! Otherwise good picks.
Reply Lev to Mike
8:07 PM on January 5, 2010 
Johan Santana isn't even in the top 10 in wins for pitchers this decade, but a great honorable mention.

A-rod was consistantly a good hitter and I'm not sure steroids had a huge effect on his hitting. Bonds however, took steroids, and the following season, hit 73 home runs.
Reply Mike
12:06 PM on January 3, 2010 
Quality list, and I like the stats that back up each selection, but I have a couple of issues:

1) Not even ONE baseball starting pitcher? Where is Johan Santana?? He's got a career 3.12 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. And most of that was spent in the American League, where he didn't have the benefit of facing a pitcher or pinch hitter one out of every 9 batters. I would put Johan on the list above at least 10 of the athletes you mentioned.

2) You have a little bit of a double standard regarding steroids. You put A-Rod at number 18, but you leave out Barry Bonds? A-Rod tested positive for steroids in 2003, and he likely used them before, and possibly even after that point. Plus his excuse for using steroids (pressure to succeed in Texas) makes absolutely no sense, because he claims he did not use steroids while under the microscope of the New York media. Bonds was clearly the best hitter in baseball from 2001-2004. I understand that A-Rod played at a high level for the entire decade while Bonds did not, but if you dismiss the use of performance enhancing drugs, then both of the must be included.

But good job overall on this project. It's clear that you put a lot of time and effort into compiling it. Keep up the good work!
Reply Tal Akabas
11:22 AM on January 2, 2010 
Decent List.
1) get rid of the garbage dump spot at #50. I know your trying to be diverse in your selections, but don't try to tell me that Guo Dingalinglong, or some fencer is a better athlete than Melo, or Venus, or Dirk (who could all make it)
2) you can always bump up Nash
3) otherwise well researched
Reply [email protected]
12:38 PM on January 1, 2010 
This was a tough assignment, and I think you did a great job! Your comments are informative (especially since I don't know a few of these athletes) and justify your choices. And, I like that you included some outstanding athletes in some of the less popular sports. They are still extraordinary, even if fewer people watch them perform.

I like Federer at #1 and am glad to see a woman figure skater in the top 20!
Reply 13G Forever
11:59 AM on January 1, 2010 
I think Michael Phelps is the top athlete, although you could argue Federer or Tiger, because they also dominated their respective sports. Love ya Lev!
Reply Gabe
9:05 AM on December 24, 2009 
yo lev, its gabie from school
Reply Shawn Dyer
5:14 PM on December 18, 2009 
Top 5
5 - Albert Puhols (Jimmy Stewart) (Kobe)
4 - Michael Phelps
3 - Lance Armstrong
2 - Roger Federer
1 - Tiger Woods

Lev,

Get it right, 1 year of dominance does not a decade make
Reply Eleanor Lowenthal
11:52 AM on December 15, 2009 
Michelle Kwan
Nine US championships, 5 World Championships, 2 Olympic Medals
Good Role Model and International Ambassador for the Sport
Reply Mike
12:30 PM on December 13, 2009 
One person nobody has mentioned is Peyton Manning. He certainly has had his fair share of playoff failures, but many of those losses were before the Illegal Contact rule was in effect, and the Patriots would maul his receivers going down the field. In my mind, the guy is the definition of consistent greatness over the past decade. Not only does he have an outstanding arm and footwork, but he essentially runs the offense by himself with constant audibles at the line of scrimmage. And he's got a Super Bowl ring to show for it.

btw, Devin Harris will be the player of the 2010's, mark my words (I don't really think so, but I can hope!)
Reply Kyle
10:01 AM on December 13, 2009 
Don't forget about some baseball players, Lev. I know you say they aren't "fit", but there are pretty good leaders in baseball.

P.S. Maybe you want to take another look at my magazine with their top 50 athletes.
Reply Tal Akabas
9:48 AM on December 13, 2009 
Lev to Seth says...
Lev: You've got a lot of big words in there. It is true though that if you look at a graph of the world records for the 100m, it does look like the graph is curving out into a line at around 9.8 seconds and then bolt comes in and creates a HUGE dip.


Tal: Thants what he JUST said