Best of 2022: Athletes of the Year

Best of 2022: Athletes of the Year

We celebrate the personalities who gave us the best sports moments of the year.

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Photo: Stacy Revere, Alberto E. Rodriguez, Steph Chambers (Getty Images)

No matter how crazy this world gets, sports seems to be the one thing that can bring people together. Fanbases unite, cities come together and for a few hours, we can all relax and just enjoy watching our favorites. This year gave us plenty of awesome, unforgettable moments to go crazy over, none of which would have been possible without these 20 amazing athletes.

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20: Erin Jackson

20: Erin Jackson

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We know the Winter Olympics aren’t usually a place where Black athletes shine, but Erin Jackson doesn’t care about expectations. She took home gold in the women’s speed skating 500m, becoming the first Black woman to win a solo gold medal in speed skating.

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19: Michael Hollins Jr.

19: Michael Hollins Jr.

Survivor of UVA shooting that killed 3 speaks out ‘for my brothers I lost’ l GMA

Mass shootings have become an unfortunate part of our lives. During a shooting that cost three of his teammates’ lives, Michael Hollins Jr. ran back into danger to help others, getting shot in the process. Now, this brave young man has opened up about his story, letting the world in on his trauma and grief, no doubt helping even more people.

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18: Frances Tiafoe

18: Frances Tiafoe

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American tennis player Francis Tiafoe had the best run of his career at the US Open, making it all the way to the semi-finals, where he lost to eventual winner Carlos Alcaraz in an instant classic. He followed that up by putting his showmanship on full display and getting the win for his team at the Laver Cup.

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17: Elana Meyers Taylor

17: Elana Meyers Taylor

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Multiple-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor isn’t just a badass in a bobsled. In addition to bringing home a bronze medal in two-woman bobsled, she also uses her platform to advocate for other Black athletes in the sport, calling out coaches, manufacturers and sponsors for racist behavior.

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16: Giannis Antetokounmpo

16: Giannis Antetokounmpo

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Giannis has started the 2022-23 season on another spectacular run and is seemingly headed for another star-making year. As if being a ridiculously good basketball player isn’t enough, Giannis and his family also let us into their lives with the Disney+ movie Rise.

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15: Francis Ngannou

15: Francis Ngannou

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The thing about UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou is that while there’s obviously brutality to his fighting, it’s also beautiful. He’s an artist and his canvas just happens to be the octagon.

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14: Konnor McClain, Shilese Jones, Jordan Chiles

14: Konnor McClain, Shilese Jones, Jordan Chiles

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If you were wondering if USA Gymnastics would continue to dominate once Simone Biles stepped away from competing, these three amazing Black women have it under control. It was a full-on sweep of the podium at the 2022 U.S. Gymnastics Championships, which led to team gold at the World Championships.

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13: Tiger Woods

13: Tiger Woods

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After his devastating car accident, it seemed like returning to the golf course was the last thing we would ever see Tiger Woods doing. Though his game will never be what it once was, it’s very inspiring to see him come back from such a life-altering injury.

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12: Bianca Belair

12: Bianca Belair

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Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez (Getty Images)

Bianca Belair has been on a record-breaking, game-changing run in WWE. After winning the RAW Women’s Championship from Becky Lynch during her second consecutive WrestleMania main event, The EST has handled every opponent thrown at her. She even took down all three members of Damage CTRL in a ladder match, hitting two of the best women in the business with a double KOD off a ladder.

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11: Sydney McLaughlin

11: Sydney McLaughlin

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Photo: Steph Chambers (Getty Images)

Sydney McLaughlin does not care about your feelings. When she’s on the track, she’s there to win races and set world records. Lately, every time she gets into a 400m hurdles final, she breaks the world record. At this point, her competitors know they’re racing for silver.

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10: Justin Jefferson

10: Justin Jefferson

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The Minnesota Vikings are having an amazing Cinderella season that no one saw coming. NFL fans have Justin Jefferson to thank for that. He could be on track for 2,000 receiving yards this season, which might be enough to carry his team to a deep playoff run.

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9: Aliyah Boston

9: Aliyah Boston

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If you’re looking for the future of women’s basketball, look no further than South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston. With the team looking to repeat as NCAA women’s basketball champions, she’s picked up where she left off, heading for a record-breaking season as South Carolina steamrolls everyone in its path.

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8: A’ja Wilson

8: A’ja Wilson

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Speaking of South Carolina…before we crown Aliyah Boston as the future, one of its legends isn’t done balling out right now. A’ja Wilson won her second MVP, was also named Defensive Player of the Year and led the league in double-doubles, in the process, leading the Las Vegas Aces to its first WNBA title.

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7: Brittney Griner

7: Brittney Griner

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She may not have played a single game this year, but no one impacted the sports world more than Brittney Griner. Her wrongful detainment in Russia united the basketball community and brought more attention to the plight of Americans being held hostage by hostile foreign governments. Now that she’s free, we can all look forward to her making an inspiring comeback to the court next season.

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6: Coco Gauff

6: Coco Gauff

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We may have said goodbye to multiple tennis legends this year, but don’t worry, because the sport is in good hands. Coco Gauff made it to the finals of her first Grand Slam and became the No. 1 doubles player in the world, letting everyone know she’s ready for the torch that Venus and Serena are passing to her.

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5: Patrick Mahomes

5: Patrick Mahomes

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Watching Patrick Mahomes play is like watching a magician perform. You’re not sure how he makes the magic happen and you don’t really want to know. The other young quarterbacks he plays against are very good, but they can’t do what he does. Every week he does something no one has ever done before, and it’s always something that only he could ever pull off. Every. Single. Week.

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4: Kylian Mbappé

4: Kylian Mbappé

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Mbappé may not have won the World Cup, but he absolutely proved to soccer fans that he’s a champion. He took time off from his record-breaking season with Paris St. Germain to lead France to the finals of the 2022 World Cup, scoring four goals, bringing his tournament total to 12.

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3: Aaron Judge

3: Aaron Judge

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If you look up “bet on yourself” in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of Aaron Judge. After not getting the contract he wanted from the New York Yankees in the offseason, he spent 2022 racking up home runs on his way to passing Roger Maris’ historic 61, winning the AL MVP and signing a 9-year, $360 million contract with the Yankees.

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2: Serena Williams

2: Serena Williams

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You only need to take a look through this list to find Serena WIlliams’ influence on the sports world. Her status as the GOAT of tennis is unquestionable and her impact on Black women in sports, entertainment and business is immeasurable. We will never be able to properly thank Serena for all the mess she shouldered, so the rest of us could walk through the doors she opened.

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1: Steph Curry

1: Steph Curry

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Watching Steph Curry shoot 3-pointers is a bit like watching Baryshnikov dance or listening to Pavarotti sing. You appreciate the elements involved, but he does them on a level that mere humans can’t understand. All he did was win a fourth championship, become Finals MVP, advocate for Brittney Griner’s release, then start the season looking for another MVP.

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