With Christmas just around the corner, as Santa is busy with his own Naughty list, I've rounded-up some Naughties of my own. Best of the Naughts. With this decade coming to a close, I've ranked the Best Athletes of the Naughts (aka the 00's).
Accomplishments/Achievements/Awards from ONLY THIS DECADE (2000-2009) are factored in. And as you will be able to tell by just glancing at the top 5, this isn't a morality contest. On-field performance only. Let the debate begin.
1) Tiger Woods
-- 12 major championships this decade. 56 PGA tour victories since 2000. Transcended the game of golf. (I promise we won't be sending him a "little black book"
for his first place prize.)
2) Roger Federer -- 15 career major championships (all since 2000). Six Wimbledon titles. Achieved the career Grand Slam. Played in 17 of the last 18 Grand Slam finals. Ranked #1 in the World for a record 237 consecutive weeks.
3) Albert Pujols
-- 366 home runs (all since 2000). Three NL MVP Awards. Eight-time NL All-Star. Led Cardinals to five NL Central division titles & 2006 World Championship. Most consistent offensive player of the 2000's. At some point NEXT decade, that home run he hit off Brad Lidge in the 2005 NLDS will land
4) Lance Armstrong
-- Battled back from cancer to win seven straight Tour de France titles from 1999-2005 (although we are only factoring the SIX from 2000-2005 into the rankings) in arguably the most difficult sporting event in the World. The only reason Lance is not ahead of Federer, Pujols is because he hasn't won anything since 2005. Not to mention, what he's done through the Lance Armstrong Foundation
would have him near the top of pretty much any list.
5) Kobe Bryant -- Four NBA championships this decade. Averaged 28.2 points/game since 2000. 2007-2008 NBA MVP. 2008 Gold Medalist. Proved he could win a title without Shaq in 2008-2009, moving him past Tim Duncan as the best player of the decade.
6) Peyton Manning -- Three NFL MVP awards. 8-time Pro Bowl selection. Led Colts to 2007 Super Bowl title. Super Bowl MVP. In my mind, Manning is the most VALUABLE player on any team in professional sports.
7) Michael Phelps -- Half human, half dolphin. Swam to six gold medals in 2004 Olympics and a record eight gold medals in 2008, making it un-American NOT jump up and down and cheer for a bunch of wet guys in Speedos.
8) Tim Duncan
-- 3 NBA championships since 2000. 2 NBA MVP awards. Averaged 21.2 points/game this decade. Until Kobe won his 4th title (and first without Shaq) in 2009, you could've probably argued that Duncan should be ranked higher. So it's a good thing Duncan never whines or complains
about anything, or else we might have to hear about that decision...
9) Tom Brady
-- As far as 6th round draft picks go, you could say Brady's had a pretty decent decade. Three Super Bowl titles. Two Super Bowl MVP awards. One NFL MVP award. Four-time Pro Bowl selection. At some point, his athletic prowess might just get him a lady
10) Jimmie Johnson -- He drives a car and he's on a Top 10 list for ATHLETES of the Decade. That should say enough, but if it doesn't - JJ's four consecutive NASCAR season championships do.
12) Barry Bonds* -- I didn't want Barry's name to feel naked, so I went ahead and put that familiar asterisk next to his name on this list, too. Won four straight MVP's from 2001-2004. Broke MLB single-season and career home run records. 317 home runs this decade. On-base percentage of .517 since 2000.
13) Tim Tebow -- Won two national championships at Florida. 34-5 record as starter. 2007 Heisman trophy winner. Three-time Heisman trophy finalist (2007-2009).
14) LaDainian Tomlinson -- 2006 NFL MVP. Set NFL single-season touchdown record in 2006. Fastest NFL player to ever score 150 career touchdowns. Currently 8th on NFL all-time rushing list. You can debate between Manning and Brady for the decade's most dominant QB, but there's no competition for LT as the best running back of the 00's.
15) Alex Rodriguez
-- 435 home runs since 2000. Won three AL MVP awards this decade. Fastest player ever to reach 500 career home runs. 2009 World Series champion. Plus, he was awesome in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days.
16) LeBron James
-- Averaged 27.5 points/game this decade. Five-time NBA All-Star. 2009 NBA MVP. 2004 NBA Rookie of the Year. Will be much higher on the list of Best Athletes of the 2010's after he leads the New York Knicks to back-to-back NBA titles
17) Mariano Rivera -- 397 saves this decade. 589 games finished this decade. 8-time MLB all-star. 2 World championships.
18) Matt Leinart
-- Won two national championships at USC. 37-2 record as starter. 2005 Heisman trophy winner. Two-time Heisman Trophy finalist. Elected to come back for his senior season, just to NOT win another Heisman trophy and NOT win another National championship
19) Shaquille O'Neal -- Won 4 NBA championships this decade (2000, 2001, 2002, 2006). 3-time NBA Finals MVP. 9-time NBA All-Star. 2000 NBA MVP.
20) Usain Bolt -- Been a "player" on the World's sports scene for less time than anyone else on this list. But that's what Bolt is about. Doing things in very short amounts of time. He's currently the World record holder in the 100m dash, 200m dash, and 4x100m relay. Three-time Gold medalist at 2008 Olympics.