Saturday, February 03, 2007

Top 10 Athletes of 2006

I love to make those top 10 lists that I see everywhere where the year ends. It usually starts out when i see in some magazine, the top 10 in sports or something, and just for fun I try to predict what will be on the list, and often it usually ends up being me making my own. Here are a couple left over I found on my a drive

10. Billy Donovan-The unconventional coach and former Pitino protege, who’s known for going the extra mile on recruiting trips, finally won a title for the University of Florida which happens to be the state’s first with a talented quartet of sophomores.

9. Amilie Mauresmo-A perennial threat to any Grand Slam semifinal over the last 5 years, Mauresmo finally jilted cold nerves to break through the hegemony at the top of the game usually occupied by the Williams sisters or the Belgian duo of Henin-Hardene and Clijsters. Mauresmo not only made a final for the second time in her career after more than five years and countless semifinal appearances, but she might long-standing nemesis Henin-Hardene in both the French and Australian Opens.

8. Ohio State-Michigan Game-One of the most anticipated regular season football games in years. The Wolverines fought for a shot at the title game and a chance to honor a late coach and the Buckeyes fought off their biggest threat to their undefeated season. Neither side dissapointed in a 3-oint win that went down to the last play.

7. Chris Paul and Reggie Bush-Two newcomers to the NFL and NBA, respectively, helped enhance the prospects of their teams to help uplift the spirits of a city in need of something to look forward to. Rookie Chris Paul was passed over for fellow point guard Deron Williams in the draft, but in his first season he became runaway choice for rookie-of-the-year and led his team from the lottery doldrums to a very close race for a playoff spot in a more competitive Western Conference. On top of that he was selected as the starting point guard for the USA Basketball team in the 2006 World Basketball Championships. Reggie Bush, similarly has been a major catalyst for the New Orleans Saints and has relished his role as the city’s savior. He is playing a big part in the Saints winning season.

6. U.S. Speedskating Team-The Winter Olympics outside of woman’s figure skating, are a hard sell to the U.S. public and nothing helps the publicity machine like controvoursey. Some sports pundits said that the Shani Davis-Chad Hedrick spat was bad for the sport, but their conflict was relatively minor since both men dominated their races and picked up a brevy of other medals in a sport traditionally dominated by the Dutch and Germans. Another big winner, Joey Cheek who took a gold in the 500 and a silver in the 1000, donated his cash bonus to charity and prompted another of other sponsors to match his donation.

5. France-Remembered for Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt more than anything else, the merits of the French in reaching the World Cup final shouldn’t be discounted. This was practically the same French squad that with its diversity and upset over Brazil in the 1998 World Cup, gave the French people great cause for celebration and hope in a racially harmonious country, and after bombing out of the last World Cup and Olympic competitions, upsetting much younger squads on a tough road that included Brazil, Spain and Portugal was no small feat.

4. St. Louis Cardinals-
In a battle between two Midwestern blue-collar towns who hadn’t won a World Series since the 1980s, the power-hitting core of Scott Rolen, series MVP David Eckstein, Albert Pujols, and Jim Edmonds made the difference for a Cardinals squad that had close calls in 2004 and 2005. Tony La Russa became the first manager to win a championship with the American and National league, also of note Chris Carpenter started the all-star game, and the city treated the team and its fans to a shiny new stadium to enjoy their victory in.

3. Italy-The jolly Opera-loving Italians, who had been in danger of falling out of the league of super powers and marred by scandal, emerged from a competitive field in the ultimate global contest to win a world cup for the first time since 1982. The Azzuri had a well-balanced attack with 11 different players scoring goals in competition, a formidable line of defenders, and a little bit of luck on their side. Four months earlier, the Italians hosted the Turin Winter Olympics successfully with hometown hero Enrico Fabris garnering 3 medals including a team relay medal and an upset of both Chad Hedrix and Shani Davis in the 1500 (see #6)

2. George Mason-Cited by countless sportsradio talk show hosts within the following weeks as the biggest upset in college basketball history, the George Mason Patriots disproved the notion that Cinderellas only go so far. Defeating four of the last seven national championships in Michigan State, Maryland and UConn, the Patriots made the final four in a triumphant show of resilience in a final four appearance.

1. Dwayne Wade/The Miami Heat-The big question was when the coveted Class of ’03 would make the playoffs or the final, but to lead the team to the championship that soon was entirely unexpected. The Heat started out with what seemed like an unbalanced roster full of egos and a washed-out coach, but behind the 3rd Year from Marquette, the Heat unseated King LeBron in the conference semifinals, followed it up with a defeat of the nearly impenetrable 80-win (?) Pistons, and with a clutch win in Game 2 of the finals, it all was smooth sailing from there. As the league crowned its new superstar in Wade, it was also a sweet day as veterans Alonzo Mourning and Gary Payton were able to finally take rings home after storied careers.

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