2008 has been one of the great sports years of the modern era. Sports like baseball, basketball, football, and soccer that traditionally garner considerable interest shined brightly this year.
In addition, sports like tennis, golf, track, and swimming achieved new heights in public attention and interest due to unparalleled performances in those sports.
This is a tribute to the sports heroes behind those great performances. Without further delay: The top 10 sports heroes of 2008.
Where would Michael Phelps be without Jason Lezak? His amazing heroics as anchor in the 4 x 100 freestyle kept Phelps on track to history.
Lezak swam the fastest 100 m freestyle in history and made up an entire body length on the cocky French anchor, Alain Bernard, to give the American team the gold.
For once, an admitted steroid user is the victim. No it isn't Roger Clemens, it's Big Brown. Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and appeared well on his way to a triple crown.
In the midst of controversy over steroids, a cracked hoof, and the euthanasia of Eight Belles after the Derby, Big Brown raced with class.
A dislodged shoe on his right hind leg kept Big Brown from triple-crown greatness.
Paul Azinger succeeded in getting the American Ryder Cup team, for once, to play like a team. His enthusiasm and brilliant pairings helped the underdog American team to win in a landslide.
The last American Ryder Cup win before this year had come in 1999.
Bradford is fresh off his Heisman award win and headed for the national championship game. He put up ridiculous passing numbers this season, with over 4,400 yards and 48 TD's to only six picks.
He's led the Sooners to a 12-1 record with one of the greatest offenses college football has ever seen.
Kevin Garnett came to Boston and effectively turned the Celtics around. The Celtics had been a joke the previous season, but KG successfully led them to an NBA championship.
Props to Paul Pierce and Ray Allen as well, but Kevin Garnett is really the heart of this team.
"Lightning Bolt" proved at this year's Summer Olympics that he is the fastest man in the world. He became the first person to win gold in the 100 m, 200 m, and 4 x 100 m relay since Carl Lewis in 1984.
He shattered his own world record in the 100 m and became the first person ever to set new world records in all three events at a single Olympic games.
This year has seen Nadal leapfrog Roger Federer for the No. 1 ranking in the tennis world, as well as win the French Open, Wimbledon, and an Olympic gold medal.
It was the way in which Rafael Nadal took that ranking that makes him a sports hero of 2008. His win over Federer at Wimbledon was the longest Wimbledon final ever.
It has been called by many long time tennis followers as the greatest tennis match ever played.
Tiger Woods belongs on any list of great athletes or sports figures. His accomplishments this year, though, have merited special recognition beyond his normal dominance.
In the 2008 U.S. Open, Tiger Woods forced a playoff with a birdie on the 18th hole, and then came back the next day and forced a sudden death with a birdie on the 18th. He beat Rocco Mediate in sudden death on his 91st hole of the tournament.
It was only later that we found out that Tiger had done it all with a partially torn ACL, partially torn ligament in his left knee, and a double stress fracture in his left tibia.
Eli Manning led the wild card Giants to the Super Bowl in 2008. When he got there, he brought down the Patriot dynasty and handed New England their one and only loss of the season.
Manning was named Super Bowl MVP, capping an incredible underdog story that left the invincible Pats at 18-1 and the Giants as Super Bowl champions.
So...Where would Michael Phelps be without Jason Lezak?
Well, He'd still have SEVEN gold medals. Luckily for us, he did have Jason Lezak to go along with his incredible talent in the pool.
During the 2008 Summer Olympics, Michael Phelps won eight gold medals, breaking Mark Spitz's 36-year-old record of most gold medals in a single Olympics.
Phelps added to his total of six gold's that he had won in Athens, giving him a total of 14 gold's and the record for most gold medals by any individual in Olympic history.
Michael Phelps was THE story of this year's summer Olympics, and he has earned himself the title as the top sports hero of 2008.