Kobe, Kemba vie for Cross-Sport award
This week, ESPN.com is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Cross-Sport Power Rankings. For you newbies out there, that's one full year of our expert panel ranking the best individual weekly performances in sports. They've been asked to decide whether a multi-touchdown game is more impressive than a 30-30 night in the NBA. They've had to choose between U.S. Open winners and RBI machines. And now, we're making them pick the Cross-Sport Athlete of the Year.
But not without running through the other year-in-review observations. On to the awards!
Most Top-10 Appearances
The debate continues. Kobe won his fifth ring in June. LeBron made his Decision that became the most talked-about spectacle in sports. Then they came into the 2010-11 NBA season with something to prove -- willing their respective teams to impressive records and wielding enough personal power to make this top-10 list 13 times apiece. Looks like this show is "To be continued "
Most No. 1 Rankings
Before the start of the college football season, few people knew what Cam Newton was capable of. Now the former Auburn QB has more hardware than Home Depot and a shot at being the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick. Our panel selected Newton No. 1 three weeks in a row back in December, but he had to share the spotlight with another foot-savvy QB -- Michael Vick.
Vick was first voted No. 1 back in October when he fueled his against-all-odds comeback story with 291 passing yards and the confidence vote of Eagles head coach Andy Reid. From there he set an NFL record by scoring five TDs in the first half of a Monday night game against the Redskins and stunned the Giants with a three-touchdown fourth quarter to secure NFC East supremacy.
But if the fall and winter headlines belonged to Newton and Vick, the spring was all Kemba Walker. Walker burst onto the Cross-Sport scene with his simply ridiculous performance in the Big East tourney (see Most Impressive Week award below) and kept things going with an NCAA tourney run to remember.
Perhaps the most frequent criticism of the Cross-Sport Power Rankings came from an international audience, claiming that soccer players deserved better placement. Fitting, then, that the athlete to be placed in the "last five out" most often was the best that soccer has to offer: Lionel Messi. Messi was one of these last five out six times in the last year.
Most Impressive Week
Kemba Walker, Week 36
In that one week, Kemba carried UConn to five wins in five nights to take the Big East tournament title. He played 190 minutes of a possible 205 and scored 130 points. He hit a buzzer-beating, game-winning jumper one night and then had the game-winning assist past three defenders the next. He was, in short, unstoppable in the week that kicked off UConn's historic run to the championship.
Honorable mention: Michael Vick - Week 30 (413 total yards, 6 total TDs vs. Redskins), Roy Halladay - Week 6 or 25 (perfect game, playoff no-hitter), Kyle Busch - Week 18 (became first NASCAR driver to win Sprint Cup, Nationwide, Camping World Truck races in one weekend), Aaron Rodgers - Week 41 (304 yards, 3 TDs, MVP in Super Bowl)
Most Controversial No. 1 Ranking
Power rankings always stir up debate among readers, but comparing athletes across multiple sports unleashed a bevy of comments during the past year. Perhaps the most controversial decision was placing BCS championship-winning RB Michael Dyer at No. 1 over Marshawn Lynch. As commenter ginyuwine put it, "A human being caused an earthquake. If that's not power, I don't know what is." Fair point.
Most Surprising No. 1 Ranking
Trevor Bayne, Week 43
Winning the Daytona 500 probably would have been enough for any driver to make No. 1 on this list. But for a rookie driver in just his second Sprint Cup start to win NASCAR's most prestigious race the day after his 20th birthday? Yeah, we didn't see that coming either.
Cross-Sport Athlete of the Year
We love the Cross-Sport Power Rankings because they're imprecise and interpretive. And curse them for the exact same reason. It's with that caveat that the panel awards Lakers guard Kobe Bryant with Cross-Sport's highest honor.
Bryant's first and only No. 1 nod came in Week 9 after capturing his fifth title with the Lakers and second consecutive Finals MVP award. But he was a picture of Cross-Sport power consistency, making the list 13 times while surpassing NBA legends John Havlicek, Dominique Wilkins, Oscar Robertson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Elvin Hayes and Moses Malone on the all-time scoring list.
Think the panel made a mistake? Did college standouts Newton and Walker have the better year? As always, we welcome your feedback in the comments section below.
Honorable mention: Cam Newton, Josh Hamilton, Kevin Durant, Kemba Walker
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CROSS-SPORT POWER RANKINGS 2011
Cross-Sport Power Rankings compares the best athletes across all professional sports. Check out the rest of our individual sport power rankings.