Top Athletes of 2015
The Eagle Sports staff discuss the top professional athletes of 2015. It was a big year of sports, so we had a lot of athletes to choose from for our (long) list.
Stephen Curry: Basketball, Point Guard, Golden State Warriors
Has anybody had a better 2015 than Stephen Curry? He’s been on fire the entire year. He’s got a picture-perfect family. And he’s got an MVP and NBA championship to match. Curry has made the Warriors must-watch TV. After coming out of nowhere to lead Davidson to an Elite Eight as a scrawny sharpshooting point guard, Curry has made himself into one of the best players in the world. He’s overcome multiple ankle injuries throughout his career, and it’s safe to say nobody thought he was going to be the player he is today.
There isn’t a player in the world with the skillset that Curry has. He can hit threes from the parking lot, and he can take it into the heart of the defense and finish through contact. He’s also a wizard with the basketball, and his pregame dribbling routine is the stuff of legends. Curry has picked up right where he left off last season, leading the NBA in scoring with 30.5 points per game. In an article featured in Time Magazine, Curry declared himself the best player in the world, and said that he’s only getting better. He’s probably right. If this is just the beginning, than the NBA should be very scared of Stephen Curry.
Tom Brady: Football, Quarterback, New England Patriots
A Business Insider poll ranked Tom Brady the 2nd most hated athlete in the country, only behind Lebron James. Regardless of his public perception, this was Brady’s year. He started the year off right in February winning his fourth Super Bowl and third Super Bowl MVP, furthering his case as the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
But when you’re on top - especially for as long as Brady has - all they want to do is bring you down. After demolishing the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship game, a story broke that the Patriots had deflated footballs in order to gain a competitive edge. This was not a new story for the Patriots -- they had been accused of cheating multiple times under head coach Bill Belichick. The Deflategate narrative dragged on and on, and the NFL handed Brady a four game suspension. Brady vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and he brought the NFL to Federal court, where his suspension was overturned.
Brady responded to the critics the only way he could, by playing some of the best football of his illustrious career. He came into the 2015 season on a tear, leading the Patriots to 10 straight victories to open the season. Brady’s got the Patriots at 12-3 right now, with a chance to lock up the number one seed in the AFC this Sunday. At 38 years old, Brady continues to dominate the NFL, and as long as he’s playing football, the Patriots are a threat to go all the way.
Carli Lloyd: Soccer, Midfielder, US Women’s National Team/Houston Dash
The narrative for the USWNT going into the World Cup did not focus on Carli Lloyd. Instead, everybody was talking about Abby Wambach (it would be her last World Cup), the inexperienced defense, and the revenge factor of losing the last World Cup in the championship. As the tournament went on, Carli Lloyd became the story.
In the group stage, it was clear Wambach was not the player she used to be, and the team was in search of a talisman. Enter Lloyd. In the semifinal against Germany, who had not conceded a goal in the tournament, Lloyd buried a penalty and set up Kelly O’Hara for another goal to put them into the final.
The USWNT faced Japan in the final - a rematch of the 2011 final. Carli Lloyd would not let the USWNT lose, scoring in the third minute and fifth minutes. Lauren Holiday scored seven minutes later to make it 3-0.
Lloyd struck again in the 16th minute, scoring one of the most spectacular goals that I’ve ever seen. She won possession of the ball in the midfield and saw the Japanese goalkeeper off her line. She took one touch and unleashed a picture perfect strike that found the back of the net that sent the entire stadium, as well as the country, into bedlam. The USWNT returned home champions, and Lloyd is a national hero.
Lionel Messi: Soccer, Forward, FC Barcelona/Argentina
What more can be said about Lionel Messi? Already considered by many to be the greatest to every play the game, Messi dominated 2015, leading Barcelona to five trophies. For those counting at home, that means they won every competition they took part in.
Messi is an absolutely joy to watch. Standing at only 5’8, the mercurial forward has a complete game - nobody can match his blend of speed, skill, and goal scoring prowess, as well as his ability to lift the play of his teammates. He sat out a significant amount of time this year due to injury, and still finished with 52 goals and 26 assists for club and country in 61 appearances for club and country.
He single-handedly led Barcelona to the Champions League final, burying Bayern Munich with two phenomenal goals. His second goal in the game, where he put Jerome Boateng on the floor and proceeded to chip Manuel Neuer, was the most tweeted about sports event in 2015. His goal against Bilbao wasn’t too shabby either.
Messi is pegged to win the Ballon d’Or, which is given to the best player in the world each year. This would be his fifth time winning the award, putting him two ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, Marco Van Basten, Michel Platini and Johan Cruyff. Messi’s already won four before the age of 30. We may never see a player like Messi ever again.
Ronda Rousey: MMA fighter
14 seconds.That was the amount of time it took Ronda Rousey to beat Brazilian rival Cat Zingano, break the record for the shortest match in UFC championship history and capture the hearts of American sports fans last March. Forget the classification of “female” or “male” – Rousey is the face of mixed martial arts, not to mention the highest paid fighter in the sport, period. Once she caught the attention of fight fans, Rousey quickly rose to crossover super-stardom, modeling for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and taking roles in action films like “Furious 7” and “The Expendables 3.” In the process, Rousey became what Barbara Walters termed a “feminist folk hero,” refusing to apologize for her muscular body or lose weight at Hollywood’s request. Though she suffered the first defeat of her MMA career to underdog Holly Holm in November, Rousey’s cultural and athletic dominance overshadow the loss of her UFC Bantamweight title – which she is already planning to win back next summer.
Jamie Benn: Hockey, Forward, Dallas Stars
As a Dallas native, I can give you the hard truth about our relationship with hockey: some care, but most don’t. Although Jamie Benn is one of the NHL’s premier talents as well as the 2015 Art Ross trophy winner, I seriously doubt that most Dallasites know who Benn is, much less the integral role he has played in shaping the Stars into Stanley Cup contenders. But here’s the thing: the Cowboys are perpetually disappointing, the Mavericks are mediocre, and FC Dallas barely registers an existence. It’s time for the city to get to know Benn and the Stars, and fast. As Benn leads the league with 23 goals alongside the surging talent of Tyler Seguin and the leadership of former Chicago Blackhawk Patrick Sharp, the Stars are a force of nature waiting to make their mark. With his calm demeanor and fierce dedication to the fundamentals, team captain Benn will be the one leading the charge.
University of Missouri football players
Athletes are often told to sit down and shut up when it comes to their political or religious views, especially when they play on the collegiate stage. Media personnel advise against sparking controversy, and aside from the occasional drunken tweet, most student athletes oblige and stay quiet about their personal stance on the issues.
That’s what makes the actions of about 30 black Mizzou football players not only remarkable but, quite literally, game-changing. After a slew of racist outbursts provoked weeks of campus protests, the university’s president and chancellor remained in power despite repeated calls from student activists for their resignation. Frustrated with the lack of administrative action, the group of football players tweeted out their collective refusal to practice or play until President Tim Wolfe was removed. White teammates and head coach Gary Pinkel quickly voiced their support, tweeting the protest hashtag #ConcernedStudent1950 in solidarity. A day later, both Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin had announced their resignations, reflecting the power of football – and the potential monetary losses of a forfeited game – to cause immediate action.
The Mizzou football players violated practically every “sports communication” rule: they didn’t sit down. They didn’t shut up, even to protect the athletic scholarships several of them depended on. Instead, they used their platform to make racial injustice and white complacence on Mizzou’s campus impossible to ignore, even on sacred game days. They effectively changed the status quo for the role of student athletes in campus activism, paving the way for future athletes to challenge university policies and forge change in institutions that once appeared immune to it. Though the team may have struggled in the win column this season, the shock waves of their off-the-field activism will be felt well beyond 2015.
Tyler Seguin: Hockey, Winger, Dallas Stars
Seeing how Jamie Benn is already included on this list, one must include his “running mate” Seguin. As one of the most dynamic players in the game, the Dallas Stars winger has a penchant for delivering incredible performances (like this one, this one, this one and most recently, this one). Seguin’s shooting ability only seems to increase as he matures, and there’s no doubt Seguin is yet to play his best hockey. This season, Seguin already has 21 goals, good for fourth in the league (unsurprisingly, his buddy Benn leads in that category with 23). Tyler Seguin is not only one of the best athletes of 2015, but also one of the most gifted in recent memory.
Bryce Harper: Baseball, Outfielder, Washington Nationals
It was a frustrating season for the Washington Nationals. Writing about them for The Eagle proved to be quite a chore at times, particularly during the team’s epic late season collapse. However, there was one player who made the games bearable throughout the season: Bryce Harper. He was like a powder keg waiting to explode every time he approached the batter’s box. One never knew when Harper was going to crush a ball right out of Nationals Park (or AT&T Park), or when he was going to come through with the clutch single in the bottom of the ninth to send Nats fans home happy. But as an athlete, it was in the outfield where Harper really shined. His athleticism and ability to make incredible catches demonstrates this. Harper was unanimously picked as the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2015, and unsurprisingly so. He continues to grow into one of the game’s most exciting players; his abilities as an athlete are second to none.
Alexander Ovechkin: Hockey, Left Wing, Washington Capitals
When it comes to goal-scoring, they don’t come any better than Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Last season, Ovechkin took home his second straight Rocket Richard trophy (given to the NHL player with the most regular season goals) with 53 goals. That was 11 more than anyone else in the league. Ovechkin is a natural athlete; his ability to score signature goals is undeniable. But don’t take my word for it; look no further than right here (and he scored that one in front of Wayne Gretzky). This season, Ovechkin is seventh in goals (therefore making it highly unlikely he’ll take home three straight Rocket Richard trophies) with 18, but he continues to contribute at a high level. Take for example this goal. Ovechkin still has it, and largely due to his efforts, the Capitals are first place in the Eastern Conference and second place in the NHL (behind the -- you guessed it -- Dallas Stars).
Gwen Jorgensen: Triathlete, U.S.A.
In a sports society dominated by football, basketball and baseball, triathlon superstar Gwen Jorgensen may not be familiar to traditional sports fans. But her international performances in 2015 suggest that she should not only be a athlete to watch but also one to follow. Jorgensen completed a historic International Triathlon circuit this year, winning events in Abu Dhabi, Auckland, Australia, Japan, London, Germany, Rio and Chicago, all in a seven-month span, and she also became the first women in history to win two consecutive Grand Final races (Edmonton 2014, Chicago 2015). She qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics with teammate Sarah True after her Olympic distance (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run) race in August and already has her sights set on the top of the podium at the Olympic games.
After finishing 38th in the London Olympics with a flat tire on the bike, Jorgensen announced her commitment to success in 2016 via Twitter. “I have no idea what 2016 will bring but I’m prepared to train my little heart out,” the Minnesota native tweeted on Dec. 30. Jorgensen spends nine months of the year traveling and training abroad, according to her website, and she has also found time to create a scholarship for aspiring junior triathletes with her husband, Patrick Lemieux, and her sponsors. Jorgensen had a big year in 2015, and 2016 is set to be just as huge. For football, baseball and basketball fans who may have never heard of Jorgensen before this blog, keep an eye out for her in the new year.
Katie Ledecky: Swimming, U.S.A.
In 2012, Katie Ledecky captured the world’s attention when she cruised to her first Olympic gold medal in the women’s 800 freestyle in the London Olympics at just 15 years old. This year, the Bethesda teenage swimming phenom continued her dominance in the pool, breaking two American records and three world records to set herself up for success at the Olympic Trials this summer. Ledecky, who has competed all over the world, set her first record of 2015 at a high school meet, when she hit the wall in the women’s 500-yard freestyle at 4:26.58 for a new American record. She also set a world record in the 1500-meter freestyle and the 800 meter freestyle at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia and capped off the year with an American record in the 1000-yard freestyle earlier this month, becoming the first swimmer to break nine minutes in the event. After making headlines in 2015 for her record-breaking swims, Ledecky enters the Olympic season primed for gold(s).
Cam Newton: Football, Quarterback, Carolina Panthers
Carolina Panthers fans have waited over a decade for a quarterback to have the season that Cam Newton has had this year. The 26-year old Auburn graduate made history this year when he became the first NFL player ever to throw for 30 touchdown passes and eight rushing touchdowns in one season, according to the Sun Times Network, and he also put his name in the record books when he recorded five touchdowns and 100 passing yards in the same game. If the quarterback continues throwing the football with the magic he’s had this year, he could help end Carolina’s Super Bowl drought and bring the team it’s first championship in franchise history. The Panthers have not played on football’s biggest stage since 2004, but with the way Newton has played all season (with the exception of last week’s game against the Falcons), Carolina could be primed for a chance at the sport's most coveted prizes. Newton’s statistics also make him a frontrunner for the NFL’s MVP award for the year. Football aside, Newton’s 2015 become even bigger, as he just announced the birth of his first child, a young boy, on Dec. 30 via Twitter.
Neymar da Silva Santos Jr.: Soccer, Forward, FC Barcelona
In his first two years at FC Barcelona, Neymar played more of a supporting role to the aforementioned Messi and put up disappointing numbers given the hype behind him. His recognition as a finalist for the Ballon D’Or, annually given to the best soccer player in the world, is an indication of how far the Brazilian has come in one year. Late in 2015, Neymar was thrust into the role as the star man when Messi suffered ligament damage in his knee that sidelined him for two months. In Messi’s absence, Neymar has grown up before the world’s eyes and made many realize why Barcelona invested so much in the Brazilian talisman. Barcelona owes Neymar for much of its unprecedented success in 2015, winning the La Liga title in Spain, the Spanish Copa del Rey, the UEFA Champion’s League, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup. In 20 games for Barcelona this season, Neymar has scored 16 goals and recorded 12 assists and has guided Barcelona to a place atop the La Liga table heading into 2016. And with all this success, Neymar has not lost any of the flair, skill and confidence on the ball that he possessed when he was a teenager at Santos in Brazil. May 2016 is sure to hold many more show-stopping moments like this from Neymar.
Antonio Brown: Football, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers
No matter how many defenders seem to be shadowing Antonio Brown, it seems he always is able to find a way to get open. While he may not be as flashy as Odell Beckham, Jr. or as outspoken as Dez Bryant, Brown’s performances in 2015 make a case for him as the best receiver in the league, especially given the Steelers’ quarterback situation. The Steelers played four games this season without Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, and while Landry Jones and Michael Vick are fine quarterbacks, they simply aren’t Big Ben. Despite this, Antonio Brown is on pace to have a statistically better season in 2015 than 2014, when Roethlisberger was healthy for the full 16 game season. Through 15 games, Brown is second in the league in receptions and receiving yards, with 123 and 1,647 respectively, and has scored 10 total touchdowns. While Brown may not lead the league in touchdowns or yards, at 5’10’’, he is significantly shorter than most of the top receivers in the league. Brown gets his catches from precisely run routes and his dynamic speed after the catch. Even when defenders know the Steelers will target him in the passing attack, Brown still puts up video game numbers. With Brown’s statistics improving in each of his first six seasons in the NFL, it’s scary to think about what 2016 may hold for the Steelers receiver.
Christian McCaffery: Football, Running back/Wide Receiver, Stanford University
Each year, the Heisman Trophy is awarded to the nation’s top collegiate football player. This year it was not. While Derrick Henry of Alabama, the 2015 Heisman winner, is the best player on arguably the best team in the nation, the title of best player in college football this season belongs to Stanford’s Christian McCaffery. The numbers don’t lie. McCaffery is really good. Historically good. McCaffery broke Barry Sanders’ 26-year-old single-season all-purpose yards record, surpassing 3,251 yards on the season. With one game remaining, the Cardinal’s running back has amassed 1,847 rushing yards, 1,109 return yards and 540 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. He’s also thrown two touchdown passes. And he’s only a sophomore. When the lights were shining brightest, against USC in the Pac-12 Championship game, McCaffery did not disappoint. He recorded 207 yards and a touchdown on the ground, 107 yards and touchdown as a receiver and added an 11 yard touchdown pass. McCaffery has the opportunity to get off to a quick start in 2016 on New Year’s Day against Iowa in the Rose Bowl. And for the sake of college football fans, let’s hope his performances in 2016 are half as good as they were in 2015.
Rob Gronkowski: Football, Tight End, New England Patriots
Rob Gronkowski, the mammoth New England Patriots Tight End, started off 2015 with one of the most significant wins of his NFL career: a Super Bowl championship.
In Super Bowl XLIX, Gronkowski made six catches for 68 yards and scored a touchdown late in the second quarter. His contributions helped the Patriots win against the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 in a hard-fought game for both teams.
During the 2015 NFL season, Gronkowski has continued to improve. According to ESPN.com, “Gronk,” as he is known by fans, is currently tenth in the league in receiving yards with 1,158 and tied for eighth in touchdowns with 11. Gronkowski continues to be the go-to guy for big plays, as he is currently eleventh in the league in yards per game, tied for second in the NFL in receptions over 20 yards, and has no fumbles thus far this season.
Gronk continues to set NFL records for his position. In 2015, he became the first Tight End to record five seasons with 10 or more touchdowns as well as the first with three seasons of 10-plus TD’s and 1,000 or more receiving yards.
In his sixth NFL season, Gronkowski is having another league-leading performance. He continues to have a strong impact on the Patriots, helping lead them to first in the AFC East. By all indications, Gronkowski is set to have a stellar 2016.
Andre Iguodala: Basketball, Small Forward/Shooting Guard, Golden State Warriors
After struggling to find his niche in the NBA, Andre Iguodala finally found his home as a swingman alongside Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. Both Iguodala’s defense and knowledge of the game of basketball shined in the 2015 NBA Finals where Andre was the Finals MVP. Although he may not be an NBA superstar, Andre is a true team player who demonstrates putting team before self.
During the 2015 regular season, Iguodala was made the sixth man on the team after being a starter his entire career. Although he was the sixth man, he continued to play with the drive and will of a player that was willing to put everything on the line to win, particularly as a defensive juggernaut.
When the Warriors found themselves going up against the likes of LeBron James in the 2015 NBA Finals, they struggled the first three games to contain the Cavaliers. In the fourth game, Iguodala was positioned into the starting lineup opposite LeBron. Andre contributed excellent defense, providing a great counterattack to James.
Behind Iguodala’s strong play against LeBron, the Warriors were able to overcome a series deficit of two games to one to win the series in six games. Andre was named the NBA Finals MVP after averaging over 16 points, four assists, and nearly six rebounds during that series. More importantly, he held Lebron to 38.1% shooting.
When another Warrior was guarding Lebron, “The King” made an average of 44% of his Field Goals. Andre Iguodala’s presence for Golden State was strongly felt. His defensive prowess helped dethrone the King and propelled Golden State to an NBA championship.
Russell Westbrook: Basketball, Point Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
If one phrase could describe Russell Westbrook’s ferocious 2015, it would be “good execution.”
The triple-double machine more than carried his team in 2015. Westbrook lifted a Kevin Durant-less OKC to play contention and quickly garnered attention for MVP. Westbrook recorded four consecutive triple-doubles during the 2014-2015 NBA regular season, culminating in a career-high 49-point performance against the Philadelphia 76ers on March 4. His efforts kept the Thunder in playoff contention, however they ultimately fell short at the end of the season. But by the end of the season, Westbrook established himself as a franchise player and one of the top guards in the NBA.
During the ‘15-’16 season, Westbrook has played with aggression, physicality, ferocity, and speed. According to ESPN.com, Westbrook is fifth in the NBA in points per game (two places behind teammate Durant), third in averaged assists, and first in the league in steals per game with 2.50.
Westbrook is one of the most important reasons that the Thunder are currently third in the turbulent NBA Western Conference this season. Playing against so many great teams, Westbrook has helped carve out a niche for OKC at the top of the league. In 2016, Westbrook will certainly be one to watch.
Serena Williams: Tennis, Reigning World #1 Women’s Singles Tennis Player
What an incredible year Serena Williams has had. At 34, the younger Williams sister dominated women’s singles tennis in 2015, winning five titles and improving to a 53-3 record.
Serena went uncontested for most of 2015, coasting to tournament wins over top-ranked opponents including Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep. She held the world No. 1 women’s singles tennis ranking for an entire calendar year, the first time a woman tennis player had done so in nearly 20 years. Serena was voted WTA Player of the Year and ITF World Champion for the third consecutive year (sixth year overall). Serena also won her second career “Serena Slam”, winning all 4 grand slams in a row, however not beginning with the Australian Open. Serena fell one championship shy of completing the calendar year women’s singles Grand Slam for the first time since 1988.
At the end of 2015, Sports Illustrated named Serena Williams the Sportsperson of the Year, and rightfully so. In 2015, Williams helped redefine the expectations of longevity for an athlete’s career. As Serena continues to play, one can only hope that she will be as fearless and talented of an athlete as she was in 2015.
Maya Moore: Basketball, Guard/Forward, Minnesota Lynx
It’s difficult to articulate the greatness of Maya Moore. She was not this year’s MVP (that deservedly went to Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky), but she’s still probably the best female basketball player right now, if not the best ever. Once again in 2015 we took her for granted, not just because of her success, but because, as always, she just doesn’t lose.
On her way to leading the Minnesota Lynx to their third WNBA title in her five years with the team, Moore averaged 20.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, in addition to 22.4 points per game in the playoffs, a Lynx team comprised of four other former All Stars. The scariest part? Still 26 years old, she’s only now entering the prime of playing career. Having won at every level and competition (including a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics), the only question that remains is how much will she win.
Moore put the finishing touch on yet another marquee season in Game 3 of the WNBA finals with possibly the marquee moment so far of her life. Tied at 77 at the end of the game, she faked out a longer defender specifically assigned to guard her on an inbounds pass and lofted the game winning shot at the buzzer, putting the Lynx ahead with a 2-1 series lead. It was a shot that begged comparisons to Michael Jordan in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals and cemented her status as the preeminent athlete in her sport. She is a role model for young girls everywhere playing basketball and will continue to inspire awe in Rio de Janeiro for next year’s Olympic Games. The Jordan and LeBron comparisons are very much merited, and in a way, don’t do her greatness justice.
Jamie Vardy: Soccer, Forward, Leicester City/England
When discussing the great narratives in soccer over 2015, one must include the turbulent course forged by Leicester City and their irrepressible characters. At this time last year, they were dead last in the English Premier League, battling to stay afloat, a minnow in a pool of sharks.
Beyond all expectations, after barely avoiding relegation at the end of last season, new head coach Claudio Ranieri now has feisty and attack-happy Leicester to the top of league with some shrewd acquisitions and a style of play that opponents struggled to match.
But the success of little Leicester can best be epitomized by their polarizing forward Jamie Vardy, one of the most compelling stories over the second half of 2015. Four years ago Vardy played in the fifth division of English soccer (the equivalent of Class A minor league baseball), and two years before that worked on a factory line. His style of play is not exactly attractive or extremely skillful, but he gets results due to his tenacity, speed and clinical finishing ability, which is all Leicester cares about. However his success rate this fall has been remarkable.
Starting on August 29, he converted a penalty kick against Bournemouth. He scored in the next game too, and the game after that, and the game after that, until he scored in 11 consecutive games, breaking the English record for consecutive games with a goal. He now has 15 goals in 16 games this year, the most in the league. He has parlayed his surprise success into appearances for the English national team and unprecedented international attention.
But he remains a complicated figure, with multiple accusations of racist comments to his name, multiple fines for vulgarity, and an arrest for assault a few years ago that saw him go through house arrest in the middle of a season. So far he has divided much of England over he and his record should be treated with so much veneration given his character flaws, but his tangible and intangible contributions to the surging Leicester City squad are unquestionable and will continue to be a narrative to follow into 2016.
Novak Djokovic: Tennis, Men’s Singles, Serbia
While Serena Williams dominated the headlines of tennis over the course of 2016 as she entered the U.S. Open in September with an opportunity to win a calendar Grand Slam, something not done by any tennis player since Steffi Graf in 1988, Djokovic quietly dominated the men’s game with just as much ferocity and determination, just a little less fanfare.
Djokovic officially emerged from the shadow of the era of a Federer-Nadal rivalry as the best male tennis player in the world, solidified by his triumphant 2015, in which he won three major tournaments (Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open), reached the final of the fourth major, and won a staggering 11 tournaments overall (Serena only won six tournaments in 2015). Djokovic also set the record with six ATP World Tour titles, and posted the sixth-best year-long winning percentage ever, winning 27 of his final 28 matches this year, indicating he had more than enough steam to dominate through the winter.
In a year where Serena was the subject of all the conversations, don’t forget about Djokovic who established himself as the best in the game as a player still in his prime, hungry for more, and in position to target the first calendar Grand Slam by a male since Rod Laver in 1969.
Mike Trout: Baseball, Centerfield, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
In 2015, Mike Trout, the 24-year-old centerfielder for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, continued to dominate the baseball world. Trout finally moved down to third in the lineup displacing 35-year-old first baseman Albert Pujols a sure fire first ballot Hall-of-Famer and one of the best hitters in the this generation. This marks a career shift of sorts for Trout, a once speedy base stealing leadoff hitter has now fully shifting into a power hitter. Trout set career highs in 2015 with 41 homeruns, .590 slugging percentage, and .991 on-base + slugging percentage. While increasing his power number Trout managed to reduce his strikeouts from 184 in 2014 season to 158. In many respects Trout had a better statistical season than his 2014 MVP season but still finished 2nd in MVP voting. Trout disadvantages to American League MVP 3B Josh Donaldson was largely out of his control; Blue Jays made the playoffs while Angels unsuccessfully fought for a postseason berth until the last day of the season and Donaldson had more RBIs and overall batting opportunities because Blue Jays historical offense while Angels struggled to score runs all season. If viewed alone Trout was the better overall player.
The Major League Baseball community is frankly taking Trout’s talents for granted.
According to Baseball Reference, through age 23 Trout statistically compares to Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson, Ken Griffey Jr, and Hank Aaron. That statement needs to be digested for its full meaning. Trout is the best baseball player of this generation and possible could be the best player in baseball history.
Conor McGregor: Mixed Martial Arts, UFC Featherweight Champion
Conor McGregor took the UFC by storm, forcing himself into the spotlight. In January, McGregor began the year with a 1:54 minute technical knockout against Dennis Silver. At the end of the match McGregor jumped out of the octagon and ran right up to then champion Jose Aldo in the stands. In July McGregor was to take on Aldo for the Featherweight Championship, until injury sidelined Aldo. With 11 days notice McGregor changed with fight plan to focus on Chad Mendes, the winner would be crowned interim champion. After early struggles McGregor defeated Mendes in the second round with a technical knockout. As interim champion McGregor catapulted to UFC superstar. The only thing left for McGregor to do in 2015 was to face Aldo to solidify his position as Featherweight Champion. In one of the most successful Pay-Per-Views in UFC history McGregor knocked out Aldo in 13 seconds.
In 2015 McGregor was able to back up all the his trash talk, weigh-in confrontations, and brags. McGregor brings the UFC the kind of theatrics that is normally reserved for the WWE. In a generation where many athletes shy away from superstardom, wanting to be a never criticized sports figure, McGregor literally fought his way into the spotlight.
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