Believe it or not folks, we’re only five months away from a new decade. This decade has absolutely flown by and was filled with some of the greatest memories and performances in sports history. During this down time in the sports calendar, I thought it was a great idea to introduce a sizzling debate in the middle of summer: who is the most successful athlete of the last ten years?
There are so many angles to go on this debate. Success has different definitions, so this debate can certainly go several ways. Below, I have laid out a brief case for who I believe are a couple of the most successful athletes of the last ten years. Also, the accomplishments shown below are only since 2010. This is not a career debate, only a debate for the last ten years.
I kept the cases for each athlete short; this could easily be a 40-page debate if we included every accomplishment for all these successful athletes. It’s tough to write a sports debate without statistics but I tried to minimize the stats used because, once again, we could write about individual statistics for days. Let’s try to tackle this mammoth question: who is the most successful athlete of the 2010-2019 decade?
2010-2019 notable accomplishments: 3 Super Bowl Championships, 2 Super Bowl MVPs, 2 NFL MVPs, 9 Pro Bowls, 2 First Team All-Pro
Tom Brady and the Patriots have been surrounded by controversy for the last two decades, but no one can argue with the results. Given the unprecedented success of the Patriots over the last 18 years, it should surprise no one that they are the reigning champions as we turn the decade. Brady has been hands down the best player in America’s favorite league since 2010. Brady’s consistency is remarkable. Since the NFL started their “Top 100” player rankings in 2011, Brady has not finished lower than fourth and has been number one three times.
Brady’s consistent statistical and championship success at arguably the most difficult position in sports gives him a solid argument for most successful player of the last decade.
2010-2019 notable accomplishments: 3-time NBA champion, 3-time Finals MVP, 3 NBA MVPs, 10 All-Star games, 9 Time All-NBA First Team, 5 Time All-Defensive Team
LeBron is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time and his peak was 2012-2018. 50 years from now, he will probably be the first name that comes to people’s minds when they think about the best athlete from this decade.
Let’s address the major criticism of LeBron: his Finals losses. In this decade, LeBron went 3-5 in the Finals. Sure, this is not a great record but let’s look at the details briefly. Three of those Finals losses came against one of the best teams of all time in the 2015-2018 Golden State Warriors. In 2016, LeBron beat the 73-win Warriors team by completing the comeback from being down 3-1. It was one of the greatest championship performances of all time and certainly the greatest I’ve ever seen.
Besides his inexcusable Finals loss in 2011, LeBron put up remarkable efforts in every other Finals series. He made a ridiculous 8 straight NBA Finals with two different teams from 2011-2018. In an era of frequent player movement, I would bet all my money that an NBA player will never do that again. LeBron just completed one of the greatest 10-year stretches of any NBA player ever.
2010-2019 notable accomplishments: 2012 ROTY, 2012 30-30 club, hit for the cycle in 2013, 2014 Hank Aaron award, 6-time Silver Slugger, 8-time All-Star, 2-time AL MCP.
Mike Trout is now often considered to be one of the greatest baseball players of all time, so considering his debut started in 2012, it would be insane not to include him in this list. Sure, Trout has never won a championship while being a member of the Angels, but his team’s lack of success shouldn’t greatly negatively impact his legacy in this decade.
Since joining the league in 2012, Trout has cemented himself as the most dominant player in the league, and that success is due largely to his versatility. After leading the American League in stolen bases his rookie year, Trout has gone on to produce insane numbers, collecting almost 1,300 hits, nearly 300 home runs, over 700 RBIs, and almost 200 stolen bases in just 7 and a half seasons. That type of production is nothing short of remarkable, and yet he is still only 27 years old and looks to be the best player in the MLB for years to come.
Here is the athlete that puts a different twist on the word “success.” Unlike any athlete, pretty much ever, Mayweather’s record is perfect. He has gone 50-0 in boxing matches. He prevailed in what was maybe the most anticipated fight of the decade against Pacquiao in 2015. Many will say that his fighting style is boring. He does not have the pure knockout strength of great boxers of the past, but again, we are only looking at results and success here.
In addition to his fighting success, nobody makes more money than Mayweather. He made almost $500 million for only two fights, roughly $275 million from his McGregor fight and roughly $220 million from his Pacquiao fight. If you see money as the biggest factor in success, then it’s hard to disagree with Mayweather, especially when you add in his undefeated record.
In last week’s debate, I talked about how I believe Federer is the greatest tennis player of all time…for now. Djokovic is close on his heels because of the phenomenal decade he has had, particularly in the last four years. Djokovic has won 15 Grand Slams since 2010. Nadal has won 12 since 2010, and Federer has only won 5 in the same period.
Djokovic’s dominance is not as loud as the rest of the athletes on this list. He remains a humble and quiet man and tennis is not a huge sport in America. However, his success is unmatched. Djokovic has a strong chance to go down as the best men’s tennis player ever, mainly due to being one of the most successful athletes of the last ten years.
This debate is sure to include many more athletes that I did not mention above. Truthfully, I could spend the next 48 hours writing about 100 more athletes that deserve to be on this list, but I would rather start the debate than break down so many more athletes. Usain Bolt, the fastest man in history, can certainly be argued on this list, as can fellow Olympic legend Michael Phelps. Serena Williams has a spot in this debate; however, she was arguably more dominant from 2000-2010. Olympic hero Simone Biles is still young but was one of the most successful athletes of the last decade with her dominance in gymnastics.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the obvious omissions off this list so far. Both were incredibly dominant for the last ten years; however, there seems to be no consensus about who was more successful between them. It’s hard to determine who has been more successful since this became a debate back in 2009, but either one can be argued as a winner of this debate.
LeBron James was the most successful athlete of this decade, both on the court and off the court. The most common knock on LeBron is his 3-5 finals record, but I think people fail to appreciate how incredible it was for him to make eight straight NBA Finals in this decade. Would it be more impressive if LeBron was 3-1 in the Finals or even 3-0 in Finals in this decade? Certainly not. Aside from 2011, LeBron put on terrific Finals performances every year. Are we really going to criticize him for winning his conference every single year? During his “Decision” at the start of his decade, LeBron ushered in the era of player empowerment and dominated every year of it.
What do YOU think? Who did I leave off this list?
NBA expert and IU grad. '96 Bulls > Warriors. #FireGarPax