The 2010 Sportsman of the Year Debate… Kobe by Default

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless, and Optimist Prime.

Well, 2010 was special year for sports fans!

Several very long-standing championship droughts ended, as the New Orleans Saints (43 year drought), Chicago Blackhawks (49 year drought), and the San Francisco Giants (56 year drought) each won championships in their respective leagues.

For those of us with a deep sense of national pride in our sports teams, the Men’s U.S. Hockey and Soccer teams treated us all to some of the most exciting and dramatic athletic performances of the year in the Winter Olympics and World Cup, respectively.

Speaking of soccer, 2010 will always be a special sports year to me as my alma mater, The University of Akron, won their first ever National Championship by claiming the College Cup in very exciting fashion over the Louisville Cardinals.

The year also had its share of goats.

LeBron James’ “Decision” proved to be a PR nightmare, Rex Ryan apparently has a foot “thing,” and we learned about everything from travel destinations to bathroom habits thanks to the incessant media bombardment of “Tiger Watch” and “Favre Watch.”

Like I said, 2010 was a special year.

But even with those spectacular performances and storylines, the task of naming a Sportsman of the Year is tricky. You see, despite the exciting performances that we were all treated to as fans, no one really separated themselves from the pack in terms of individual performances.

Sure, there are some obvious default options to look to. Drew Brees certainly became the face of the NFL in 2010 after leading the Saints to their first ever Super Bowl championship. Here’s the problem – I credit Sean Payton, not Drew Brees, with winning that game. While Brees had a remarkable season leading up to that Super Bowl, it is important to note that performance came in 2009, not 2010. So far this year Brees has played well, but Tom Brady and Michael Vick (along with several others) have been far more impressive.

Being quarterback of the championship NFL team is not enough on its own to earn the “Sportsman of the Year” crown.

Moving on to baseball, several pitchers tried to make cases for themselves. In the post-season, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Tim Lincecum all pitched to historic levels. Halladay’s post-season no-hitter was the greatest individual performance, but Lee’s and Lincecum’s pitching had far more significant value for their teams.

All three pitched exceptionally well, but once again none separated themselves enough from the others to claim the title.

In golf, Phil Mickelson’s emotional victory at the Masters was the perfect start to the 2010 season, but Lefty proved unable to do anything more as the season played out. After winning his third Green Jacket, Mickelson could do no better than taking one more second place finish, and only six top-ten finishes on the year.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge Jimmie Johnson’s accomplishments in NASCAR this year, having won his FIFTH consecutive Sprint Cup Championship. He has become nothing less than a one-man dynasty, and is right now the single most dominant person in sports. The only reason I am hesitant in recognizing Johnson any further is that I am forced to now question the quality of his competition. With all due respect to his accomplishments, are his championships the result of Johnson being that good, or is it that the rest of the field is that bad?

By default, we are forced to look to the NBA to find our Sportsman of the year.

In the NBA, names like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Carmelo Anthony dominated headlines. Free agency in 2010 was undeniably the biggest sports story of the year, overshadowing even the NBA Finals. But it is Kobe Bryant who should be recognized as the Sportsman of 2010.

This year, Bryant quietly led the Los Angeles Lakers to a second consecutive NBA Championship. I never thought I would use the words “Kobe Bryant” and “quietly” in the same sentence, but in a year where it seemed that LeBron James was the ONLY person being talked about in the NBA, Bryant proved definitively that his Lakers, not LeBron’s Cavaliers (or now the Miami Heat) were the absolute best in the game. He led the Lakers to a Western Conference-leading 57 wins, and unofficially resolved the “Kobe versus LeBron” debate. This year brought Bryant the fifth title in his career, and the 17th in the history of the Lakers’ franchise.

Bryant’s stability and leadership (I really can’t believe I am writing this…) carried the Lakers into the post-season and through the Finals. When all the world was enamored with the courtship of LeBron James, Bryant busied himself with winning a championship.

Through nothing but his phenomenal talent, Kobe Bryant continues to keep the Lakers as the team to beat in the NBA. No matter how great the Miami super-team may hope to be, they are still playing in Kobe’s league.

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4 Responses to The 2010 Sportsman of the Year Debate… Kobe by Default

  1. Old School says:

    Championship or not Halladay gets my vote, not only was he great in the post season, but how about the regular season. He pitched a perfect game and won the Cy Young! No one has ever done that. Throw a perfect game, no hitter in the playoffs, and win the Cy Young! He was great the whole year not just the playoffs! I believe he seprated himself from the others. It seems like your decision was based on just the playoffs, which short changes the fantastic year he had. It is the Sportsman of the Year, not just the playoffs!

    • Bleacher Fan says:

      There is no denying the year that Roy Halladay had. But if becoming the “First Ever” is all that it takes to be Sportsman of the year, we’d have to start recognizing Sports-MEN of the year.

      ***Michael Vick become the first person in NFL history to pass for 300yds and 4 TDs, and rush for 50yds and 2 TDs in a game.

      ***King Felix won the AL Cy Young, becoming the first person ever to win the award with fewer than 15 wins on the season.

      In terms of other historic performances in 2010:
      ***John Isner and Nicholas Mahut’s Wimbledon match lasted more than 11 hours, spread out over 3 days.

      ***Geno Auriemma became the first person in NCAA history to coach a team to 89 consecutive victories.

      So looking back at what Halladay did this year, it is true that his perfect game was outstanding. But Dallas Braden also threw one in 2010, and Armando Galarraga SHOULD have had one.

      His postseason no-hitter was exceptional, but it was followed immediately by other historical pitching performances from Tim Lincecum (14 K’s in a postseason shutout) and Cliff Lee
      (improving to 7-0 w/ 1.26 ERA in his first 8 postseason starts).

      And at the end of the day, Halladay performs in a TEAM sport, not an INDIVIDUAL sport. As such, his contributions to the TEAM’S performance must be considered. And when it came to crunch time, Halladay got outpitched by Lincecum in the NLCS.

      Halladay – 13 innings, giving up 6 earned runs w/ 12 K’s and 1 walk

      Lincecum – 14 innings, giving up 5 earned runs w/ 15 K’s and 3 walks

      Most importantly, though, is the fact that Lincecum outpitched and outright BEAT Halladay in Game 1. When Halladay got his revenge over Lincecum in Game 5, it came thanks to a Giants’ fielding error, not because Halladay outpitched Lincecum.

      And I’ll say it again – Lincecum, not Halladay, ended up with the ring.

      I stand by my choice.

  2. Loyal Homer says:

    He definitely had an outstanding year!

  3. Old School says:

    If this is an award for Sportsman of the year, than how can you focus on playoff performance? Also how can you compare one game performances [Vick, Braden, and the tennis duo] to the “Year” performance of Halladay? He accomplished something that has never been done before in a sport that has been around for how long? He did more in more in one year than any other pitcher has done in a career!!

    I also believe that too much emphasis is placed on the ring, that seems to minimize the total year performance. However I may agree that Geno’s year deserves mentioning, except he did not win 89 games last year!

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