Tom Jones' 2 cents

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2010 athletes of the year

24

December

Picking an athlete of the year is virtually impossible. How do you say the best player with an incredible season in one sport is better than the best player with an incredible season in another sport? That said, we'll still try. Here are our picks for the top athletes in 2010 and the one we deemed worthy of the title, "Athlete of the Year.''

halladay.The nominees:
Roy Halladay
If you had to pick one pitcher to start a must-win game, wouldn't you take the big Phillies right-hander? What didn't he do in 2010? Back in May, he tossed the 20th perfect game in league history by baffling the Marlins. In September, he became the first Phillies pitcher since Steve Carlton in 1982 to win 20 games on his way to the Cy Young. And his staggering 2010 season wasn't over. In the very first postseason start of his career, Halladay threw a no-hitter. It was only the second no-hitter in postseason history (to go along with Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series). And Halladay became the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1973 to throw two no-hitters in the same season.

manny.Manny Pacquiao
It's time to start thinking about where Pacquiao belongs on the list of the greatest pound-for-pound boxers of all time. He doesn't just win his bouts, he destroys his opponents by either knocking them out or savagely picking them apart and busting them up for 12 rounds. Pacquiao fought twice in 2010, winning both in easy decisions. It would be nice if he and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. could finally face one another, but until they do, Pacquiao will keep on rearranging the faces and breaking the wills of his opponents.

moore.Maya Moore
How good is this UConn basketball player? Florida State coach Sue Semrau says Moore reminds her of Kobe Bryant. Basketball coaching legend Bob Knight said Moore is the most complete player he has ever seen. It's appropriate she wears the same number (23) as Michael Jordan. She just might be the greatest women's basketball player ever. When UConn won its 89th consecutive game last week to set the all-time Division I record, the 6-foot senior forward dropped in 41 points. She is the best player on, arguably, the greatest women's college basketball team in history.

brees.Drew Brees
If you're talking about quarterbacks in 2010, the natural instinct is to look at the 2010 season. New England's Tom Brady and Philadelphia's Michael Vick seem to be the two leaders in the MVP race. And, on the college level, Auburn's Cam Newton was head and shoulders (and feet) ahead of everyone. Any of them could easily fit on this list. But we're going to go back to the beginning of the year and recognize Brees for leading the Saints to their first Super Bowl victory. His efforts on the field, as well as how he has embraced and immersed himself into the New Orleans community, were the reasons why he was selected as Sports Illustrated's "Sportsman of the Year.''

crosby.Sidney Crosby
If we had to think of one hockey moment in 2010, it wouldn't be the Blackhawks winning their first Stanley Cup since 1961 (although that was memorable). The most dramatic moment of the year came when Canada's Sidney Crosby scored in overtime to lead his country to the Olympic gold medal over the United States in a game for the ages. These days, he is back with his Penguins and, if possible, has gotten even better this year despite already being, in some minds, the best and most complete player and leader in the NHL. As the year draws to an end, Crosby has a healthy lead in the scoring race thanks to a career-long consecutive-game scoring streak.

vonn.Lindsey Vonn
Perhaps the greatest female skier in American history went into the Vancouver Olympics expecting to compete in five events with a decent shot at winning several gold medals. As it turned out, Vonn collected only one gold and a bronze, but it was far from a disappointing Olympics. Vonn showed true grit even competing after badly bruising her shin in a training run. Given a reprieve by warm weather that pushed back some of her events, Vonn used the extra time to heal as best she could, but was still in excruciating pain that would've sidelined many competitors. Nevertheless, Vonn won the premier skiing event of the Games -- the downhill.

hamilton.Josh Hamilton
When you think about where Josh Hamilton once was, it's remarkable that he's even alive. A serious drug addiction seemingly ended a baseball career that was set for stardom. When Hamilton began his comeback in 2007, the expectations were low. He had played sparingly over the previous six years and not at all from 2004 to 2006. No one thought he would ever be able to fulfill his once-high potential. But these days, you could make the argument that he is the best player in baseball. In 2010, the Rangers slugger won the battling title with a .359 average, hit for power (32 homers and 100 RBIs despite missing 29 games) and played outstanding defense. All this led to him being named American League MVP. His comeback story is heartwarming and stunning.

nadal.Rafael Nadal
The Spanish-born lefty and his chief rival, the Swiss mister Roger Federer, are so consistently good that we have taken them for granted. Seems that every time you turn around, they are playing one another for a grand slam title. But in 2010, Nadal pulled away as the best tennis player in the world. The only thing that ever holds him back is injury. In 2010, Nadal won the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and starts off 2011 as the favorite to win the Australian Open. If he does win, he will hold all four major championships at the same time with no reason to think he can't extend his streak to seven straight majors by the end of 2011.

josh.And our choice for the 2010 athlete of the year is ...
Josh Hamilton
Really, anyone on this list would have been a worthy selection. But considering where Hamilton is now compared where he was a few years ago? It's one of the great sports stories of our generation. And, when it comes to performance on the playing field, we'll put him up against anyone.

[Last modified: Friday, December 24, 2010 2:56pm]

    

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