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Top sports person of 2013

Most years, choosing a sports person of the year is a fairly easy assignment.

Tiger Woods. LeBron James. And years ago, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky were so much better than everyone else that the choice really was no contest.

Not this year.

Nominees are plentiful, but there is no clear-cut choice.

So mull over your choices while you read our nominees — Andy Murray leads off — and our choice for sports person of the year.

Andy Murray, tennis

Ranked fourth in the world, he makes our list for being the first Brit since Fred Perry in 1936 to win Wimbledon.

LeBron James, basketball

Know what is hard to believe? James turns only 29 on Monday. Clearly the best basketball player in the world, the Heat forward is gunning for his fifth NBA MVP award and his third title.

Peyton Manning, football

Sports Illustrated's choice for its sportsman of the year, the Broncos quarterback is playing as well now as he has at any point in his career. If the Broncos defense hadn't had a brain cramp in last season's AFC division playoffs, Manning could have won a Super Bowl.

Jameis Winston, football

Not only is the Heisman Trophy-winning Florida State quarterback the best college player in the country, he is by far the best college player in the country.

Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR

He won his sixth Sprint Cup championship this year, putting him only one behind Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt for most NASCAR Cup titles all time.

Serena Williams, tennis

When Williams puts her mind to it, no one can beat her, and she is moving into the rarefied air occupied by the best of all time. Her season was highlighted by victories at the French and U.S. Opens, giving her 17 major singles titles.

Geno Auriemma, basketball

Here's a coach to consider. After going two years without an NCAA women's championship — that's a major drought at UConn — Auriemma had the Huskies lifting the trophy again, leading them to a 35-4 record. No surprise, they are No. 1 again this season and the favorites to win Auriemma his ninth national championship.

Miguel Cabrera, baseball

Do you have any idea what we are witnessing with this Tigers slugger? In 2012 he became the first player since 1967 to win the triple crown by leading the American League in batting average, homers and runs batted in. He almost did it again this year. He won his third consecutive batting title and second consecutive American League MVP award.

Inbee Park, golf

The 25-year-old South Korean had a chance to become the first golfer to win four majors in one season. She put together three consecutive major wins, becoming only the fourth woman to win three majors in a calendar year. Her streak ended at the Women's British Open, but she's still the best player in the world.

Mariano Rivera, baseball

Rivera didn't necessarily have the best year in sports. Heck, it wasn't even the best year of his career. But we must acknowledge the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history. Essentially using one pitch his entire career, Rivera became the most dominant closer ever, and his retirement tour last summer showed how much grace and class he has, as well as how much he is respected in baseball.

Floyd Mayweather, boxing

Two more fights in 2013, and two more victories. The best pound-for-pound fighter in the world is trying to lay claim to being one of the best of all time. I wish he had fought tougher opponents in his career, and the window to fight Manny Pacquiao seems just about closed, especially given the cold war among their promoters. Still, these numbers don't lie: Mayweather is 45-0 as a pro.

Franck Ribery, soccer

If we're picking the best players in the world, we'll take Lionel Messi with the first pick. But Ribery, the Frenchman who plays for Bayern Munich in Germany, was voted the European federation's Best Player in Europe Award.

Tampa Bay gets its own sports person of the year presentation. Let's look at the nominees and winner:

The nominees are: Lavonte David (Bucs linebacker), Wil Myers (Rays rightfielder), Marty St. Louis (Lightning forward), Steven Stamkos (Lightning forward), Gerald McCoy (Bucs defensive tackle).

And the winner is ...

Marty St. Louis. We almost forget that not only did St. Louis lead the Lightning in scoring during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he led the NHL in scoring. And at 37, he became the oldest player to lead the league in scoring, repeating a feat he previously accomplished during the Lightning's Stanley Cup season of 2003-04. Also making 2013 special for St. Louis? He reached his 1,000th NHL game.

And the sports person of the year is …

Jimmie Johnson

I can hear the catcalls already. "Race car driving is not a sport,'' some will say.

You're wrong. It is a sport. Drivers are athletes. They use their bodies and minds and concentration skills to race around the track. Instead of a bat or a ball, their equipment is a car. And unlike in most sports, one small mistake can mean death.

Johnson's accomplishments are stunning. He won his sixth Sprint Cup championship in easy fashion, and by the time it's all said and done, he will go down as the greatest driver in NASCAR history.

Inbee Park was a close runnerup, but the sports person of the year is Jimmie Johnson.

. Tuesday: National stories of 2013

. Wednesday: Local stories of 2013

. Today: Sports person of the year

. Friday: Year-end Shooting from the lip

. Saturday: Strange sports stories of 2013

. Sunday: Athletes to watch in 2014

Top sports person of 2013 12/25/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 9:46pm]
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