1. Roger Federer: when you have both the best and cockiest tennis players whoever lived proclaiming you to be the best in history and you’re only 24, then you might just be the next best thing. Roger Federer’s close to invincible in his sport of men’s tennis, losing only four matches the whole year, frustrating the hopes of would-be tennis prodigies Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt who still haven’t been able to find a hole in his game.
2. Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart
Those irritating BCS squabbles over who deserves to be in the title game, (of which USC was itself a victim in 03-04) were never an issue the past 2 seasons for USC who made the issue of the nation’s #1 team unquestionable. On January 4th, 2005, Heisman trophy winner Matt Leinart threw an Orange Bowl record 5 touchdown passes to win USC the national title, and they haven’t lost a game since. This year, running back Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy giving USC the distinction of the only team in history to have two Heisman Trophy winners on the same team.
3. Bode Miller-Miller entered the skiing scene in 2002 as the comeback kid after making up for a blotched first run with a near flawless second run, coming through in the clutch not once but twice to take two silver models. Since then his clutch-skiing has propelled him to unforeseen heights for any American skier in this year’s coming Olympics in Turin. In 2005, he became the first American in 22 years to capture the overall world cup title (ALA #1 skier in the world), breaking through an incredibly strong Austrian contingent. But Miller is just as much a great down-to-earth personality as he is a skier. He’s just as likely to win the race as he is to crash and finish the course on one ski for showmanship purposes, and he’s ok either way.
4. Danica Patrick-Patrick wasn’t just someone who broke the gender barrier in race car driving, she was someone who was a threat to be the best at the sport, guy or girl. When she took the lead at the Indy 500, she was gunning first and made a noble effort in her fourth place finish.
5. Dwayne Wade-Wade made incredibles strides in his sophomore year to go from promising rookie to dark-horse MVP candidate. Unlike contemporary LeBron James, who also blossomed into a superstar this year, Wade managed to get his team into the playoffs, taking them through two rounds and a 7th game against Detroit up into the conference finals. And yes, it was Wade’s team at that point, not Shaq’s. He took over the leadership and did much more than was asked of him when Shaq fell into injuries come playoff time. And he’s also one of People’s 50 Most Beautiful People.
6. Chicago White Sox-Paul Kroneko and the Sox finally gave the Windy City, Cub fans included, the pennant they’ve been wishing for since that fateful Cubs-Marlins series of ’03 and way beyond. The Sox were untouchable in the standings throughout the season and when playoff time came they dismantled last year’s dream team, the Boston Red Sox and marched straight on through to the title.
7. Detroit Pistons-“No one gives us any respect,” complained Rasheed Wallace, and in a way he was right. The younger and flashier newcomer title threats, the Pheonix Suns and Miami Heat got more attention up until playoff time, but the Pistons fought hard to show their championship season wasn’t a fluke. With the two Wallaces blocking shots and stealing in the front court and the league’s most athletic swingman in Rip Hamilton, the Pistons steadlily chipped away at the Heat and pushed the Spurs to 7 games. This season, so far, they’re the team to beat again with an astounding record of 24-4 at the end of 2005.
8. Houston Astros-The team didn’t win the World Series but the city was just happy enough with their team to take the pennant for the first time in the franchise’s history and for the first time in Lance Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, and Craig Biggio’s storied careers. Also, consider St Louis was no easy pushover. Add to that, Roger Clemens’ pitching arm which still throws strikes better than anyone at the age of 43 and you have a team of heroes that any city would be proud to have as a World Series runner-up.
9. Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals-Although Roy Williams and UNC is an obvious pick, I’ll go with Rick Pitino because Williams already dealt such a good slate of players to start with when he jumped ship to UNC. Pitino’s storied legacy looked all but over when he failed miserably in the NBA and couldn’t go back to his old job as a coach of Kentucky. However, he settled down elsewhere in the Bluegrass State at the University of Louisville and built up arguably the best interstate rivalry of the last few years before the fruits of his labor came to fruition this year when he became the first coach to reach the final four for three different schools.
10. Lance Armstrong-Won a record 7th Tour de France amid increased hecklers and increased accusations of doping, and then retired so we can see someone else win or stop watching cycling period, cause it wasn’t that interesting in the first place.