New year gives opportunity to reflect on 2010’s best players

The beginning of every calendar year gives media members a chance to look back on the previous year and make a lot of judgments.

Accordingly, I’ve compiled my top 10 athletes of 2010.

But first, here’s how I came up with the list.

I thought of athletes in every sport to be as fair as possible, and I was strict in my scrutiny.

My primary criterion was that each top 10 athlete had performed at a high level with a balance of ability and results. Some popular athletes didn’t make the list because they had let downs during 2010.

10) Jimmer Fredette: He could probably shoot a basketball from Hinkle Fieldhouse and make it in a basket in BYU’s Provo, Utah, gym—he’s that strong. Fredette had an impressive showing at the end of the 2009-10 season, and his nation-leading 26.7 points per game has BYU at No. 9 currently.

9) Blair Brown: The Penn State senior right side hitter is an impact player on the nation’s best volleyball team and won four Division I titles. Brown was also part of Penn State’s record 109 consecutive wins—the second-longest streak in any NCAA Division I sport, short only of the University of Miami’s men’s tennis team’s 137 wins (1957-64). In 2010, she led her team in kills while hitting .320 and was second in both blocks per set and digs per set.

8) Maya Moore: The University of Connecticut guard added to her already-lengthy list of accomplishments in 2010. Moore was the 2010 Academic All-American of the Year and on the Associated Press’ First-Team. She also helped win UConn’s second consecutive championship while building that basketball record-breaking 90-game winning streak.

7) Jonathan Toews: The Chicago Blackhawks center and captain joined the Triple Gold Club in 2010, which happens only after winning an Olympic gold medal, a World Championship gold medal and the Stanley Cup. Additionally, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the Stanley Cup’s MVP, making him a must for this list.

6) Georges St. Pierre: For those who don’t know this name, learn it. “GSP” is the Welterweight Champion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He is an animal physically but spiritually is level-headed. His ability to study the mental half of martial arts makes him unique and has allowed him to defend his title multiple times since 2008. In 2010, he defended his title against Dan Hardy and Josh Koscheck.

5) Cam Newton: He won the Heisman Trophy and quarterbacked Auburn to the Bowl Championship Series title. He’s a unique athlete who’s difficult to tackle in the open field. Even with off-field controversy, his skills on the field are undeniable.

4) David Villa: Spain winning the 2008 Euro Cup was just a prelude to winning the 2010 World Cup, in which striker Villa scored the most goals. “El Guaje” isn’t the most creative player today, but he plays with a level of excitement and beauty that is fun to watch. How perfect that he plays “the beautiful game.”

3) Shaun White: Was there any doubt that he should be on this list after winning the 2010 Winter Olympic’s halfpipe gold medal? “The Flying Tomato” ensured his dominance in snowboarding when he became the first to repeat as the halfpipe gold medalist. His tricks are the best because he creates them. Every other snowboarder copies White.

2) Rafael Nadal: “Rafa” became the best tennis player in the world in 2010. He won the 2010 French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open to secure the No. 1 world ranking above Roger Federer. As far as the “greatest ever” list goes, Federer is still above Nadal, but for 2010, Nadal is on top.

1) Roy “Doc” Halladay: This Philadelphia Phillies pitcher threw a perfect game on May 29—the 20th in MLB history—and a no-hitter on Oct. 6—the second postseason no-hitter in MLB history. Those two feats alone earned him the top spot, but the American League Championship Series appearance doesn’t hurt.

Honorable mentions, in no specific order:

Blake Griffin: Despite his versatility and jaw-dropping dunks, “Blake Superior” is not in the top 10 purely because he did not play early in 2010.
Alexander Ovechkin: He led the Washington Capitals to a No. 1 seed in East but then lost a first-round series to the No. 8 seed Montreal Canadiens—great 2009, not so great 2010.

Tom Brady: He led the Patriots to the NFL’s best regular season record, and although he continues to do a lot with not-so-well-known guys under 6-feet tall, there was no 2010 playoff win.

LeBron James: It was the same story in a different year for this “small” forward—another great individual year without a championship.

These are my top 10. Arriving at them was no easy feat, which reminds me how fragile the difference between being one of the greatest and being forgettable is.

What’s your top 10?