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On SI.com, 35 writers contributed essays on who they think deserves the magazine's highest honor. Here are six excerpts.
Track deserves a rock-solid place among the most valued sports on the planet. To regain this foothold, it needs many things, but nothing more than a transcendent star whose image becomes the screensaver for the next generation. For a week in Beijing, Usain Bolt was all of this. He jumped on the gurney, straddled a dying sport and applied paddles to its chest, giving it life.
Rafael Nadal pummels the ball, unfurling a lefty game that has no precedent. Yet his real strength is the mental variety. Nadal is that rare athlete whose game moves in lockstep with the stakes.
As a collegian, an Olympian and a pro in 2008 Candace Parker morphed into what had been an elusive figure in women's basketball: a mainstream draw. The curious were hooked.
Kurt Warner has been hurt and benched and risen to play great football. In every place he has been a people magnet because he never allows Warner the athlete to define Warner the person.
The U.S. Open alone makes Tiger Woods a candidate. What seals the deal is the great, roaring vacuum that his departure created. Without Tiger, only people who play golf will follow golf.
When the Brewers ended Milwaukee's 26-year playoff drought on the season's final day, there was no player who had poured more of himself into the playoff bid than CC Sabathia.