News‎ > ‎

Top 100 Sports figures of 2010: Nos. 1-10

Game On! bloggers Reid Cherner and Tom Weir are bidding good-bye to 2010 with their list of the Top 100 Sports Personalities of the Year. These are the people who, for better or worse, drove our traffic. And today we finish off the series with our selection of Nos. 1-10.
10. George Steinbrenner. Yankee haters may say the pinstripe victories in the World Series are checkbook championships, but there's no denying The Boss was as intent on winning as anyone who has ever owned a pro franchise. And he delivered. RIP, George.
9. Drew Brees. Of all the championships that have ever been won, none was truly for a city as much as the Super Bowl title that Brees brought to New Orleans.
8. Reggie Bush. He should have been singing Elvis' Return to Sender when he finally acknowledged the mess he created at USC and returned the Heisman.

CAPTIONBy Michael Sackett/US Presswire
7. Rex Ryan. He started the year with a raised-finger gesture. Then he ramped it up with an F-bomb barrage on Hard Knocks. Then he promised the Jets wouldn't be "that team." Then he got embarrassed 45-3 by the Patriots. And then his strength coach went ape on the sidelines. All the news outlets owe him a commission.
6. Ben Roethlisberger. To be fair, Roethlisberger was never formally charged with even the slightest transgression. And yet there was virtually no protest when he was suspended. We were all left wondering exactly how much fire accompanied all that smoke.
5. Cam Newton. Daddy dearest put him up for bid on the open market, but because Cam supposedly never knew he gets to keep his Heisman Trophy. Unless, of course, another Reggie Bush scenario develops as the NCAA gumshoes poke and probe for hidden details. Ah, college football. So much talent, so much money passing under the table.
4. Brett Favre. How did we get so tired of him? Oh yeah, because he couldn't make up his mind. He could have walked away heroically a year ago, having come within one play of reaching the Super Bowl. Instead, his consecutive-games streak came to an odd end in Detroit, and in his final season there was more news about his text messages than there was about his touchdown throws.
3. Michael Vick. Is this the most stupefying comeback in sports history? When all the ugly details about Vick's forays into dog-fighting came out there was a widespread opinion that he would never be able to find a spot on another NFL roster. And yet here he is, being recognized for all the excitement he creates, and possibly headed to his first Super Bowl.
2. LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Not only did LBJ stick a rusty spike in the heart of his home town, he elected to do it on prime time, and drag it out for the NBA version of 60 Minutes. In the span on one Jim Gray-inspired hour, LeBron went from super-cool to new-wave villain. Leaving Cleveland may yet yield his first championship ring, but you can make the case that this divorce was more painful than Tiger's.
CAPTIONBy Charlie Neibergall/AP
1. Tiger Woods. There were times when covering his story seemed like we were writing letters to Penthouse. The number of women claiming to have gone the mistress route seemed like Buzz Lightyear's trademark line of "To infinity, and beyond." And it all ended in divorce, and questions about whether the world's best golfer will ever be recognized that way again. It was a mess, but it was the year's biggest sports story.
We'll also toss in a late-breaking honorable (or maybe dishonorable) mention for Fox commentator Tucker Carlson. His remark this week that Vick "should have been executed" for his dog-fighting crimes was one of our most-read items of the year, and inspired a 2010-high 2,400 comments from our readers.
Here are the rest of our lists of top sports personalities for 2010, and we'll start compiling one for 2011 tomorrow. Happy New Year!
Game On! bloggers Reid Cherner and Tom Weir are bidding good-bye to 2010 with their list of the Top 100 Sports Personalities of the Year. These are the people who, for better or worse, drove our traffic. Today we count down Nos. 11-20.

CAPTIONBy Susan Mullane/US Presswire
20. Derek Jeter. There was an abundance of angst that he and the Yankees would part ways if they couldn't meet somewhere in the middle on a contract. In the end, they remained as much of a winning combination as Jeter and Minka Kelly are.
19. Stephen Strasburg. His flame didn't burn long but it burned brightly with those 92 strikeouts in 12 starts before his arm torqued out. His rehab will be one of baseball's most anticipated events of 2011.

PHOTO GALLERY: 2010's top sports figures in pictures

18. Bill Belichick. Just when it looked like the Patriots were fading and becoming just another contender, Belichick's team separated itself from the pack. Again.

17. Cliff Lee. Nobody turns down Yankee money. But Lee did exactly that while also saying that, all things considered, he'd rather be in Philadelphia.

16. Manny Pacquiao. Sometimes great things come in small packages, as Pacquiao is proving while taking aim at becoming the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in boxing history.
15. Phil Jackson. After winning his 11th NBA title as a coach, the Zen Master decided to continue his journey toward enlightenment for at least one more season, even though it meant taking a pay cut.

14. Roger Goodell: Sports Business Journal named him the year's most influential person in sports, and much of that high profile stems from his crackdown on NFL players' off-the-field conduct. But if he can't prevent a 2011 lockout his legacy will take a helmet-to-helmet hit.

13. Tim Tebow. He smiled during training camp when the veterans ordered him to get a Friar Tuck haircut. And he patiently waited until his chance to start came. His jersey sales as an NFL rookie also are a testament to his popularity.

CAPTIONBy Howard Smith/US Presswire
12. Kobe Bryant. Hear that knocking sound, Michael Jordan? That's Kobe at the door, letting you know that with one more NBA title the two of you will be tied.

11. Coach K. Wasn't it just a couple of years ago that Mike Krzyzewski seemed to be wearing down? But now he has piled up an Olympic title, a World Championship and he might be headed for back-to-back NCAA crowns.
Game On! bloggers Reid Cherner and Tom Weir are bidding good-bye to 2010 with their list of the Top 100 Sports Personalities of the Year. These are the people who, for better or worse, drove our traffic. Today's list is Nos. 21-30.
No. 30: Lance Armstrong-Floyd Landis. We long for the days when our cycling news was dominated by great performances. But it was hard to ignore the back and forth between our greatest cyclist ever and one of our most disgraced.
No. 29: Randy Moss. It was a short distance between "straight cash homey" and straight to the bench. One of the greatest wide receivers in history played for three teams and somehow talked himself off a Super Bowl contender and away from future Hall of Fame Brett Favre. We still want him for our 2011 fantasy team.
CAPTIONBy Adam Larkey, AP
No. 28: Erin Andrews. One of the most popular sideline reporters rebounded from one of the worst years of her life to one of the most fun. She showed off her entertainment side by wowing us on Dancing With the Stars and proved to ESPN/ABC that there are plenty of things she can do when she's ready to leave the sidelines.
No. 27: Jim Gray. The broadcaster never fails to leave us bored. His dispute with Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin would have been enough but he sealed the deal with his role in "The Decision."
No. 26: Lane Kiffin. They love him when he comes and hate him after he leaves. You get a different opinion of the college football coach whether you are standing in downtown Los Angeles or in any county of Tennessee. If he rebuilds the USC program they erect a statue of him.
No. 25: Armando Galarraga-Jim Joyce. One was perfect, the other was not and the pitcher and umpire will go down in history together. Both should be applauded for the class they showed after the no-hitter that wasn't.
No. 24: Kevin Durant. Just being one of the best basketball players on the planet gets him on this list. But his MVP performance in the World Championship deserves a special mention.
No. 23: Vince Young. Whether he's still a Titan in 2011 might depend on whether Jeff Fisher is still coaching the team. Bud Adams loves him. Now he'll have to judge how the love affair is playing across the state.
No. 22: The Cowboys. Dallas' newest soap opera stars Jerry Jones, Tony Romo, Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett. The mystery as to who shot the Cowboys Super Bowl chances could be revealed next season.
No. 21. Tom Brady. We don't ask if he's the best quarterback in the game anymore. We now wonder whether he'll retire as the best that ever played.

Game On! bloggers Reid Cherner and Tom Weir are bidding good-bye to 2010 with their list of the Top 100 Sports Personalities of the Year. These are the people who, for better or worse, drove our traffic. Today's list covers Nos. 31-40, and starts with the man many consider the greatest coach, ever.

CAPTIONBy David Cannon, Getty Images
40. Phil Mickelson. Lefty and wife Amy were the picture of class and dignity as they weathered her bout with breast cancer, and found that winning another Green Jacket at the Masters was pretty good medicine.

PHOTOS: USA TODAY's Top 100 of '10

39. Barack Obama. He's a great host to every major championship team at the White House. But he also showed he plays hoops for real when he took an elbow during a pickup game and needed 12 stitches to repair the damage.
38. Sam Bradford. There were doubts about Bradford's future when surgery ended his final season at Oklahoma early. But those are long gone after he put the once-woeful Rams in playoff contention as an NFL rookie.

37. John Wall. He was one-and-done on a Kentucky team that reached the Elite Eight, but his NBA career promises to last much, much longer.

36. Mike Leach. He never had a losing season at Texas Tech and the master of the spread offense is still on the offensive, with lawsuits against his former employer and ESPN.

35. Albert Haynesworth. He's the new metaphor for horrible free-agent signings. For $100 million, the Redskins got a defensive tackle who doesn't want to play in the 3-4 defense, and whom they ultimately suspended.

34. Jimmie Johnson. He's this era's king of the asphalt, with five consecutive Sprint Cup crowns. Only Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty have more NASCAR championships.

33. Bobby Bowden. He didn't go out on his terms, and he had some victories taken away at the end of his 57-year career. But he got one last ride on the shoulders of his players at the Gator Bowl and he'll always be one of college football's legendary coaches, dadgummit.

32. Butler's basketball team. They won 25 consecutive games, and then took Duke down to the wire in a real-life version of Hoosiers.
Game On! bloggers Reid Cherner and Tom Weir are bidding good-bye to 2010 with their list of the Top 100 Sports Personalities of the Year. These are the people who, for better or worse, drove our traffic. We're making today's list of Nos. 41-50 all about the Olympians who made headlines.

50: Joannie Rochette. What is a Canadian figure skater doing on this list? Her bronze medal performance following the death of her mother was one of the great stories of the Vancouver Olympics. Everyone was a Canadian the night she skated.

CAPTIONBy Kazuhiro Nogi, AFP/Getty Images
49: Shani Davis. There was great controversy leading up to Vancouver but Davis did all his Olympic talking on the ice once the games started. His 1,000 meter performance was golden.

48: Juan Samaranch. His death at the age of 89 made us once again evaluate his two-decade tenure as IOC chief.

47: Ryan Miller. The quest for the Olympic hockey gold medal was one of the most exciting ever and the play of Miller in goal was one of the reasons. The USA didn't get gold but we believed in Miller all the way through overtime.

46: Apolo Ohno. He made us sit up and notice short track skating. He won three more Olympic medals in 2010 and finished with eight in his career.

45: Sidney Crosby. They already want to build statues of him in Pittsburgh and he's now a Canadian hockey legend (he was merely a superstar before) with his overtime goal to win the Olympics.

44: Evan Lysacek. Usually the USA attention is centered on the women figure skaters in the Olympics. Lysacek's gold medal changed that in Vancouver. The fact that favorite Evgeni Plushenko of Russia complained about the outcome was just icing.

43: Bode Miller. We wrote him off as a kook and a malcontent. His answer? 

CAPTIONBy Darryl Dyck, AP
A gold medal. We have nothing but love for him now.

42. Shaun White. When he let loose with the Double McTwist 1260 to win another snow boarding gold medal I called my son Quinn (my resident snow boarding expert) and asked if anyone else in Vancouver could do that. He advised me that no one else in the world could have done it. Good enough for me.

41.Lindsey Vonn-Julia Mancuso: They lit up the slopes in Vancouver. Vonn won the gold medal in the downhill with Mancuso following with silver. Vonn would add a bronze in the Super G and Mancuso another silver in the super combined.
31. John Wooden. Perhaps the only thing Wooden failed at during his life was getting to his 100th birthday. He passed away at the age of 99 in June, leaving a legacy of 10 Final Four championships and some of the greatest teams college basketball has ever seen. He also went into basketball's Hall of Fame as a coach and a player. Along the way, anyone who spent even a minute listening to the Wizard of Westwood couldn't help but learn at least one important lesson.
Game On! bloggers Reid Cherner and Tom Weir are bidding goodbye to 2010 with their list of the Top 100 Sports Personalities of the Year. These are the people who, for better or worse, drove our traffic. Were making today's list of Nos. 51-60 all about women who made headlines in 2010.
60. Natalie Randolph. Coolidge High in Washington, D.C. named her to coach its boys football team, and she responded to the rare opportunity by getting her team into the playoffs.

59. Nancy Lieberman. She broke down a barrier when the Texas Legends named her head coach of the NBA Development League team.

58. Lorena Ochoa. There's a bit of a void in women's golf now that Ochoa has joined Annika Sorenstam in retirement. Sorenstam had a full career, but Ochoa walked away at the age of 28, ranked No. 1 in the world, but anxious to start a family.

57. Michelle Wie. She finally showed some of that greatness we've been expecting since she burst onto the golf scene as a teen sensation. Her victory at the Canadian Women's Open was her second LPGA win, but her first against a full field.

CAPTIONBy Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
56. Venus Williams. She got to No. 2 in the world behind sister Serena for a while, and they picked slam titles in doubles at the Aussie and French Opens. But even if she didn't win a set all year long she still would have been one of the biggest newsmakers, because of the ooh-la-la, corset-like dress she wore at the French Open.

55. Brittney Griner. As a freshman, the 6-8 Griner couldn't get Baylor past UConn at the Final Four semifinal, but she did set a tournament record with 14 blocks in the second round and had an intimidating 218 for the season.

54. Tina Charles. UConn's other superstar set the Huskies' all-time rebound record and then set a WNBA record for boards in a single season, as a rookie.

53. Maya Moore. It's said that her hand movements are quicker than the striking speed of a rattlesnake. She's definitely been poison for opponents, leading UConn to consecutive undefeated seasons, and possibly a third.

CAPTIONBy Danny Johnston/AP
52. Serena Williams. Because of injuries, at times it seemed like an off year. And the world's best female tennis player still managed to win two slams and push her career earnings to $31 million and counting.

51. Zenyatta. She fell just short of going 20-for-20 when a slow start cost the filly an ultra-narrow defeat at the Breeders' Cup. But only the male horses she beat along the way were glad to see her end a sensational career with that lone blemish.
Game On! bloggers Reid Cherner and Tom Weir are bidding goodbye to 2010 with their list of the Top 100 Sports Personalities of the Year. These are the people who, for better or worse, drove our traffic. Today's list is Nos. 71-80.
Top 100 countdown photo gallery
No. 80: Aroldis Chapman. He's lefthanded. He throws the ball 105 miles an hour. How could he not be on this list?
CAPTIONBy Michael Sohn, AP
No. 79: Landon Donovan. His World Cup goal against Algeria (video here. "You could not write a script like this") in stoppage time was one of the those "I remember where I was" moments in sports. We also like that he gave a shout-out to his ex-wife, actress Bianca Kajlich after his World Cup goal.
No. 78: Erica Blasberg. The suicide of the LPGA player was one of the saddest stories of the year. The details of her final hours are still a bit of a mystery.
No. 77: Yeardley Love. The death of the University of Virginia lacrosse star was the worst nightmare for every parent who sends their child off to school.
No. 76: Gilbert Arenas. Injuries. Suspension. Fake injuries. Trade out of town. Is this anyway for a $111 million man to act?
CAPTIONBy Branimir Kvartuc, AP
No. 75: Tony Parker and Eva Longoria: Nobody knows what goes on inside a marriage and this is Exhibit 1. Whatever happened, no one is talking about it unless they are denying the latest rumor.
No. 74: Frank and Jamie McCourt. They have paid $20 million to lawyers to try to get a divorce. It is one of the few marriages that, depending on the outcome, will have to get approval from a majority of the owners of Major League Baseball. It is tough to be a Dodger fan these days.
No. 73: John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. Their 11-hour match at Wimbledon was one for the record books and divided fans as to whether they had seen the greatest match ever or whether the folks in London need to change their rules.
No. 72: San Franciso Giants. Tim Lincecum. Cody Ross. Buster Posey. Fear the Beard. Wine country. The Giants won a World Series that we all (excluding Rangers fans) could appreciate.
No. 71: Greg Oden. We would love to remember the Funny or Die audition or the excitement of his coming to Ohio State, but sadly he is being remembered for a man whose body continued to betray him year-after-year. We can only hope 2011 finds a miracle cure.

Game On! bloggers Reid Cherner and Tom Weir are bidding goodbye to 2010 with their list of the Top 100 Sports Personalities of the Year. These are the people who, for better or worse, drove our traffic. Today's list is Nos. 91-100.
Top 100 countdown photo gallery

CAPTIONBy Julian Finney, Getty Images
No. 100: Dan Gilbert. Nobody puts the Cavaliers owner in the corner. When LeBron James jilted him at the primetime alter, he answered with a scathing screed promising that Cleveland would win a title before Miami.

No. 99: Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer. Great champions have great rivals and these guys have made tennis interesting again. Just when we wanted to make Federer the greatest player of all-time, Nadal makes his bid to snatch the crown. These guys have won 21 of the last 23 major titles. Next up: Australian Open.

PHOTO GALLERY: How the top 100 look

No. 98: Michael Jordan. We just can't shake this guy. Maybe because we are still wearing his shoes. Even when we talk about Kobe and LeBron we use this guy as a measuring stick. He put his money where his mouth was by buying the Charlotte Bobcats.

No. 97: David Stern. We would never leave off a guy who wants to rule the world. Stern wants to take the NBA global and who are we to believe he can't do it? But first he's got to settle an upcoming labor dispute and it will be interesting how his suggestion that players take an $800 million pay cut will play out.

No. 96: Ernie Harwell. His voice will be missed and not just by fans of the Detroit Tigers where he did play-by-play for 42 seasons. Wrote John Lowe of the Detroit Free-Press: Listening to him was as pleasant as being at Tiger Stadium in the summertime. As he fell silent between pitches, listeners got to hear the sounds of the ballpark — the crowd's buzz, the vendor's cry — and absorb the rhythm of the game. Harwell thus became an ideal companion for a listener anywhere: the couch, the yard, the car or the boat.

No. 95: Pat Haden. It is hard to find a volunteer to clean up the streets of Dodge City after the cattle drive has come through. Putting things right at USC after the Reggie Bush affair would be a tough job for any first-time athletic director. We are betting that the former Rhodes Scholar has the personality and drive to go with those smarts.

No. 94: Floyd Mayweather. You could make the argument that his guy is the best pound-for-pound fighter in history. But his legacy may be the guy who came up with every excuse to avoid Manny Pacquiao. Right now his legal problems are dominating the news.

No. 93: Bryce Harper. A No. 1 draft pick at 17-years-old, he skipped his final year of high school so he could accelerate his pro career. His home runs in high school and junior college are already legendary. That includes a 502-foot shot in a home run derby. Now he has the Washington Nationals fans dreaming of days when they won't be one of the worst teams in baseball.

No. 92: Mark Sanchez. There is nothing better than a passion play in New York. One week Sanchez is the toast of the town and the next he can't show his face on Broadway. So far the QB from USC is shouldering the burden pretty well but it could all depend on whether he rallies the Jets or causes them to miss the playoffs.

No. 91: Donovan McNabb. The guy has been nothing but money on the field but can't seem to get the respect he should. From Terrell Owens, to getting traded inside the division, to coaches who believe he can't run a two-minute offense. He'll probably end his tenure in Washington holding a clipboard.