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Athletes of the Year

Sports, Year-End | By The Top 13 on December 17, 2009

As 2009 comes to a close, The Top 13 ranks the best individual athletic performances of the year. This list spans the globe and covers a wide array of sports. And while just about every athlete who we ranked appears to be on his way to a spot in his sport's respective hall of fame, no one on The Top 13 did more in 2009 to cement his status as one of the greatest of all time than Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao, who is The Top 13's athlete of the year.

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Manny Pacquiao

1

Manny Pacquiao

Now deemed by many to be one of the five greatest boxers of all time, The Pac Man had an incredible 2009. Not only did he annihilate IBO Light Heavyweight Champ Ricky Hatton with a second round knock out early in the year, on November 14th he became the first fighter to win world titles in seven different weight classes with his victory over fellow superstar Miguel Cotto.

Kobe Bryant

2

Kobe Bryant

2009 was very good to Kobe Bryant. After winning the NBA MVP, but coming up short in the NBA Finals in 2008, Kobe led his Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Championship while collecting the hardware as the Finals MVP and All-Star Game Co-MVP, as well as All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team.

Usain Bolt

3

Usain Bolt

How do you top a 2008 that saw you win three Olympic Gold Medals and shatter world record after world record? If you are Usain "Lightning" Bolt, you don't slow down one bit. At the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Bolt ran a 9.58s in the 100-meter (.11 faster than his World Record at the Olympics) and followed that up by breaking his own 200 meter record by the same margin.

Derek Jeter

4

Derek Jeter

Sports Illustrated's 2009 Sportsman of the Year checks in fourth on The Top 13. Jeter had a beast of a 2009 as a whole, but what really stands out is his leadership of the New York Yankees to their 27th World Series title by hitting .355 in the playoffs. Plus, Jeter broke Lou Gehrig's record for the most hits in Yankees' history.

Alberto Contador

5

Alberto Contador

At the 2009 Tour de France, Contador held off a serious push from both Lance Armstrong and Andy Schleck to win his second yellow jersey in just three years, cementing his status as Armstrong's replacement as the biggest star in cycling.

Jimmie Johnson

6

Jimmie Johnson

With seven wins, including four during the Chase for the Cup series, #48 won his fourth straight NASCAR Cup Championship and further solidified his reputation as the best driver on on the circuit.

Evgeni Malkin

7

Evgeni Malkin

In 2009, Malkin became the first Russian to ever win the Conn Smythe Trophy, but his achievements don't stop there. Regular season scoring champ, Playoff scoring champ, team MVP of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Art Ross trophy, All Star game starter, first team all-NHL, and on and on. The hardware speaks for itself.

Roger Federer

8

Roger Federer

Some would say 2009 was a bit of a down year for Federer, but that is probably due only to the standard he's set for himself. Federer won his 14th and 15th Grand Slam titles, capitalizing on Rafael Nadal's injury to win his first French Open (becoming the sixth man in history to achieve a Career Grand Slam) and winning Wimbledon. There remains little doubt that he is the best tennis player in the world (possibly ever).

Albert Pujols

9

Albert Pujols

The most dominant hitter in baseball continued to give opposing pitchers nightmares in 2009. The Cardinals star won the National League Most Valuable Player award while leading the league in home runs, runs scored, on base percentage, and slugging percentage.

LeBron James

10

LeBron James

What can be said about "King James" that already hasn't been said a million times? 2009's NBA Most Valuable Player fell just short of singlehandedly leading his Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA finals.

Lionel Messi

11

Lionel Messi

The Argentine national team star led Barcelona to the 2009 Champions League Cup with nine goals in the competition. Messi was named Union of European Football Associations Club Footballer of the Year.

Ben Roethlisberger

12

Ben Roethlisberger

While the Steelers have not played as well as many expected they would this season, Big Ben earned his place on this list with his fantastic playoff run that culminated with a Super Bowl championship to start the year.

Michael Phelps

13

Michael Phelps

Another Olympic athlete who decided ruling 2008 was not enough, Phelps followed up his seven gold medals performance from the year before with six more medals (five gold and one silver) at the 2009 World Aquatics Championships in late July.

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Comments Leave a comment

radiowxman 

Good list. Did you consider any MMA fighters for it though? George St. Pierre, BJ Penn and Anderson Silva had pretty good years too.

8:00 AM   Dec 17, 2009

stillathreat ★★

Wrong years for Bolt and Phelps; plus, Roethlisberger should be disqualified for his awful play this season.

8:03 AM   Dec 17, 2009

KungFuJay ★★

What about Tiger Woods, for his skills as both a golfer and a juggler?

8:26 AM   Dec 17, 2009

Travelin_Jack 

I know it is an uneducated opinion, but I can't treat Nascar drivers as athletes. In any capacity.

Phelps should be higher. I don't think that record is going down ever.

8:36 AM   Dec 17, 2009

Travelin_Jack 

Of the year, not of the decade. right.

8:38 AM   Dec 17, 2009

Buddah 

Yeah, Tiger Woods should really be on that list.

8:46 AM   Dec 17, 2009

abujabu 

how is it the wrong year if bolt broke two of his own world records? I agree with Jack about nascar too/

8:48 AM   Dec 17, 2009

jason ★★

Sport or not, winning 4 straight NASCAR titles is pretty impressive. Not sure I agree Tiger should be on there, between whoregate and not winning any majors this year. Jeter is ranked way too high. There are numerous team leaders in team sports that led their teams to championships this year without collecting any individual hardware of note (and a SI fluff piece doesn't count).

10:08 AM   Dec 17, 2009

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