The 20 Most Exciting Athletes in Pro Sports [Video]

Farooq Ahmed@@farooq09Correspondent ISeptember 9, 2011

The 20 Most Exciting Athletes in Pro Sports [Video]

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    The top athletes in the world are ones who can sink that vital shot at the buzzer, lead a team to a touchdown with two minutes left on the clock, find the top corner of the net every time or lead their team to victory in finals or the playoffs.

    Those are the most exiting athletes in professional sports. When they have the ball or step to the plate, you won't want to change the channel because you never know what could happen; you may just be about to witness history. 

    This list compiles the 20 most exciting athletes in sports today.

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T-20th. Travis Pastrana

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    A modern-day Evel Knievel in the extreme sports world, Pastrana has dominated the X-Games over the last 10 years in several different events ranging from moto-X to rally.

    Travis has won an incredible 17 X-Games medals since his first appearance in 1999.

T-20th. Tim Lincecum

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    Four-time All-Star and 2010 World Series champion with the San Francisco Giants, "The Freak" hits speeds in excess of 97 mph and has the meanest curveball in the MLB.

19. Jon 'Bones' Jones

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    UFC light heavyweight Jon "Bones" Jones is one of the most athletic and charismatic men competing in MMA today. At 23 years-old became the youngest champion in UFC history and catapulted the young prodigy toward true super-stardom.

    His performance to defeat MMA legend Shogun Rua is widely considered the best performance in UFC history in march 2011 dominating the fight and earning TKO victory.

    Jones' style and technique is what sets him apart from so many other fighters in the UFC having only gone the distance two times in his eight-fight UFC career.

    His next fight is a showdown against UFC veteran, former light heavyweight champion and knockout artist Quentin 'Rampage' Jackson in one of the most anticipated fights of 2011.

18. Tom Brady

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    Six-time Pro-Bowler, three-time Super Bowl champion & two-time MVP, Tom Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history.

    Brady was drafted 199th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft and still holds a chip on his shoulder because of it. No one will ever be able to question Brady's will and determination to be the best quarterback of all time. He certainly has my vote.

17. Sebastian Vettel

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    The 2010 World champion & soon-to-be 2011 World champion is still only 24 years old. He could be the next Michael Schumacher.

    The German defending champion leads his Red Bull teammate Australian Mark Webber by 92 points and is 102 clear of two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.

16. Chris Johnson

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    The fastest running back in the NFL, give him a good block and a lane to run through and he’s gone.

    In 2009 Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards, becoming only the sixth player in history to achieve that landmark. In total he had 2,509 total yards from scrimmage, breaking NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk's single-season record.

15. Kevin Durant

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    At 22 years old, Kevin Durant is already one of the top five players in NBA. He is a future NBA MVP & quite possibly the leader of a dynasty in Oklahoma City with the Thunder. 

14. DeSean Jackson

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    The Eagles receiver is one of the most electrifying players in the NFL, alongside Mike Vick, Jeremy Maclin & LeSean McCoy in that Eagles offense...Speed kills.

    A two time Pro-Bowler, Jackson is one of the flashiest players in the NFL. His "mistake" against the Dallas Cowboys during his rookie season, however, will go down as one of the most bone-headed mistakes in NFL history. Luckily for Jackson, it didn't bother his team much.

    His walk-off punt return touchdown against the New York Giants last season will surely go down as one of the most dramatic moments in NFL history, in one of the great comebacks in NFL history.

13. Devin Hester

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    Nothing excites fans of the NFL more than a kick-return TD, and Hester is the undisputed greatest kick-returner in NFL history with 14 total kick-returns (not including a missed FG return and Super Bowl return).

    Opposing coaches now have had to game plan to kick away from Hester, who has become the biggest special teams threat in NFL history.

12. Rafael Nadal

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    In what seems to be a "golden age" of tennis, Nadal is widely regarded as one of the all-time greatest tennis players. His style is unorthodox for a world class tennis player, with strength and power the keys to his game.

    He is the winner of six French Open titles, two Wimbledon titles and one Australian and US Open title apiece.

    Unlike Roger Federer who seems to be on the decline, there is something about Nadal that draws in the big crowds.

11. Adrian Peterson

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    A Pro-Bowler since he entered the NFL, Adrian Peterson is the strongest, most physical and most complete running back in the NFL. "All Day" has dominated the NFL running-backs.

    Currently, Peterson has the third-highest average rushing yards per game total in NFL history with an average of 97.1, trailing Hall of Famers Jim Brown (104.3) and Barry Sanders (99.8).

    Peterson holds the NFL record for the most yards rushing in a single game, 296 on 30 carries and three TDs against the San Diego Chargers in his rookie season.

10. Usain Bolt

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    There are few titles like that of being the "Fastest Man on the Planet," and Usain Bolt is that man. 100 meters in 9.58 seconds.

    The anticipation when he puts his hands on the ground in that famous sprinter start pose is unlike any other in sports. Bolt ran the 100 meters in 9.69 seconds at the 2008 Olymipics in Beijing, making one of the all-time sporting moments in history.

    More recently at the World Athletics Championships, his Jamaican team broke the world record in the 4x100 meters relay with a time of 37.04 seconds.

9. Albert Pujols

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    Three-time National League MVP and nine-time All-Star, Pujols is one of the all-time great sluggers the MLB has ever seen.

    In his first 5,000 career at bats, Pujols hit 372 doubles, 358 home runs, and 14 triples for a total of 744 extra-base hits, the most in MLB National League history. He currently has eight career walk-off home runs in his career with the Cardinals.

8. Cristiano Ronaldo

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    If God created the perfect football player, Ronaldo would be it. He stands at 6'2", is built like a boxer and is as fast as anyone in sports. He has the deadliest free-kicks in football.

    Statistically last season Ronaldo averaged a goal per game and in his career at Real Madrid so far has 90 goals and 21 assists in only 92 appearances.

7. Alexander Ovechkin

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    The two-time Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP) winner, Alexander Ovechkin is a special talent in the world of hockey. Ovechkin has scored so many mind-blowing goals I’ve lost count.

    During the 09-10 season Ovechkin led the NHL in points per game (1.51) and goals per game (0.69). He ranked tied for second in the NHL in points (109), three points off the lead, and third in goals with 50.

    The Capitals star has led the NHL in shots in five straight seasons, the only player to do so since the statistic was first tracked in 1967-68. He has had 33 games with 10 or more shots on goal in his career, more than any other active player.

    While Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins remains the face of the NHL, Ovechkin to countless others is still the best player in hockey.

6. Manny Pacquiao

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    He’s not undefeated (53-3) like Floyd Mayweather (41-0), but he has the personality, the guts and the fighting style to put him among the elite fighters of all time. He has already won 10 world titles and is the first eight-division world champion.

    Pacquiao was named "Fighter of the Decade" for the 2000's by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

    His list of opponents consists of dominant names in the boxing world. Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito, Miguel Ángel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Márquez, Marco Antonio Barrera and Érik Morales have all fallen to the Filipino prodigy.

    His next fight is scheduled against Marquez for the third time; surely if he defeats the Mexican conqueror then Floyd Mayweather will be next.

5. LeBron James

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    The most vilified man in America, LeBron James took heaps of criticism when he decided to "take his talents to South Beach" and play for the Miami Heat with fellow All-Stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, leaving his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers in the rear-view mirror.

    That did not, however, diminish his play during the regular season as he averaged 26.7 points, seven assists and 7.5 rebounds per game.

    His play in the playoffs, most notably the Finals against Dallas, was a different story as his play quickly receded (like his hairline). For the second time in his career, LeBron failed to lead a team to a championship in the Finals.

    His persona is still one that is greatly criticised, particularly after the NBA Finals when he decided to go with the "My Life Is Better Than Yours" approach to his critics.

    Regardless of what people think of him, he still remains one of the most entertaining athletes in the world.

4. Anderson Silva

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    The No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world of MMA, Silva blows through opponents as if they weren’t even a threat. UFC president Dana White has on numerous occasions called Silva the "Muhammad Ali of Mixed Martial Arts."

    His most recent win against Japanese phenom Yushin Okami extended the UFC record for most consecutive title defenses to nine successful title defenses.

    His performances and antics against Demian Mia and Thales Leites are his only UFC  fights which have gone to a decision vote. Silva had drawn a lot of criticism from the MMA fan base as well as UFC president Dana White. However Silva’s performances since have not disappointed.

    His most notable highlights include a devastating Muhammad Ali-esque performance against former light-heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin and a deadly front-kick knockout of fellow Brazilian Vitor Belfort as well as two demolitions of Rich Franklin.

3. Derrick Rose

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    In the words of Bulls commentator Stacey King, "Too Big, Too Strong, Too Fast, Too Good."

    The best point guard in the NBA without a question of doubt, Rose went from All-Star in 2008 and 2009 to MVP of the league in the 2010-11 season ahead of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard & Kevin Durant. He led the Chicago Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat in only his third season in league.

    Bulls fans haven’t seen this kind of talent since Michael Jordan left Chicago. Rose is still only 22 years old and perhaps has his best years ahead of him. The only question left for Rose is if he and the Bulls can get past the Miami Heat en route to the first NBA Championship for Chicago since the Jordan era? 

2. Lionel Messi

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    Mesmerizing with his speed, ludicrous with his skill and technical ability, Lionel Messi has scored an incredible 100 goals in 108 appearances over the last two seasons with Barcelona.

    Still only 24 years old, Messi has accomplished almost everything there is to accomplish in club football. Messi has won an incredible five La Liga titles, three Champions League titles, five Spanish Super Cups, two UEFA Super Cups, a FIFA Club World Cup and a Copa del Ray title as well as an Under-20 World Cup and an Olympic gold medal with Argentina.

    The only thing missing on Messi’s list of accomplishments is a FIFA World Cup, and how big of a story would it be for the Argentina to win it in rival Brazil’s homeland.

1. Michael Vick

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    If it weren’t for Tom Brady, Vick would have been the MVP of the NFL last season. His performances for the Eagles have engrossed audiences around the world.

    His story is one that would be more likely to be seen in a Hollywood movie script rather than one in real life. Vick has transformed himself from one of the NFL’s bad boys to the elite of quarterbacks in the NFL just over a year after being released from federal prison after serving a two-year sentence for dog-fighting.

    Vick wasn’t even supposed to be the starter last season. Eagles coach Andy Reid named Kevin Kolb as the starter, but after Kolb suffered a concussion in Week 1 against the Packers, Vick came in and never looked back. It wasn’t all bad for Kolb who now throws to Larry Fitzgerald.

    Vick's resurgence with the Eagles has turned him into the most exciting player in the NFL without a doubt. If you saw the Eagles vs Giants “Miracle at the Meadowlands Part Two” last season, you would know that no game is ever over when Michael Vick plays quarterback.

    In his Week 10 matchup against the Washington Redskins, Vick delivered one of the all-time great quarterback performances ever seen, throwing for 333 yards and four TDs and rushing for 80 yards and two TDs in front of a worldwide TV audience.

    His overall play and unpredictability in the run/pass game are what make him so exciting to watch and give him the No. 1 rank as the most exciting athlete in professional sports.