The end of the year is coming. Let’s look back at some of the athletes that made a big splash over the past 12 months. For our purposes, “breakout athlete” is defined as someone who more than quadrupled his name recognition among sports fans.
To the greatness:
He’s got the best nickname in recent memory and he’s the prohibitive favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Not bad for a redshirt freshman. Johnny Football’s accomplishments are even more impressive when you consider the tremendous, almost folklore-heavy expectations that were placed upon him. He crushed Cam Newton’s SEC record for total yards with 4,600 and turned in the performance of the college football season in a road win against Alabama. Also, he partied with these babes.
No athlete created as big a phenomenon as the unheralded Asian-American from Harvard. Seriously, that shit got out of control. Playing for the New York Knicks and sleeping on his brother’s couch certainly helped his visibility. His amazing rookie campaign earned him a one-way ticket to Houston. We didn’t see that coming.
Robert Griffin III
His name sounds like he should be a character on “Downton Abbey.” His game suggests he’s got Hall of Fame potential. The Washington Redskins quarterback has singlehandedly turned his team into a playoff contender and made thousands of fantasy football owners sprout trouser wood along the way. Here is a sculpture of him made out of Subway chicken.
He challenged American hero Michael Phelps in the pool and absolutely nobody intellectually. When he wasn’t snagging gold medals, he was embarking on one-night stands and embarrassing himself on national television. A dim-witted Bro hero for all of us.
He came to the majors as a teenager and will likely leave as a legend. The Los Angeles Angels centerfielder turned in a season for the ages, combining a ridiculously potent blend of speed and power. Along the way, he became a posterboy for the sabremetrics sect, won the American League Rookie of the Year Award, and finished second in Most Valuable Player voting.
Shit, guys, he made having a unibrow cool. You’ve got to be pretty amazing on the court to make that happen. The Kentucky big man blocked every shot in the way of the Wildcats’ national title run and was selected first overall in the NBA draft. He also made people pay tribute in some of the weirdest ways possible.
The Indianapolis Colts star might be the second coming of John Elway. Hell, he might be better. He’s turned a franchise that was smoldering pile of feces into a viable playoff contender. A freakish athlete whose freakish athleticism is rarely acknowledged, Luck’s going to be tremendously fun for many, many years to come.
Got his first two tour wins and came dangerously close to winning the PGA Championship. Unassuming as he may look, he’s a crouching tiger on the course. WAR EAGLE!
Frat-tastic to the bone. The Southerner hit an amazing shot to secure his first Masters win and didn’t change a lick. Strong men also cry.
Suck it, haters, because NASCAR is too American to die. The 28-year-old captured his first Sprint Cup Series championship and celebrated in the most Bro way possible. He drinks, he drives. Just not at the same time. Mad respect.
He was always good. He was never THIS good. Harden was a scoring machine for the Oklahoma City Thunder and the United States basketball team. His beard was unapologetically strict. He partied like a rock star. Bless his heart.