Athletes with the Best Scoring Swagger

Laura Depta@lauradeptaFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2015

Athletes with the Best Scoring Swagger

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry is probably the most exciting scorer in the NBA right now. Not only does he score often, but he does it with a level of beauty and entertainment value few others can achieve.  

    The following athletes are a lot like Curry in that way. Not only do they score a lot, but they do it in entertaining fashion. They make the impossible look possible. They use unparalleled athletic gifts to put points on the board. Their scores are gorgeous, mesmerizing and just flat-out fun to watch. They are poetry in motion (h/t Liverpool FC).

    Please note: The following is not a list of the best scoring celebrations (sorry, Gronk) but rather the best actual scores. Although, if you're Cam Newton, sometimes those two things go hand in hand.

    With these athletes, soak it in, folks. Their brand of goal scoring doesn't come around often.  

Robert Lewandowski

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    Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski is a little heavy on the quantity side, but still, his goal-scoring abilities are nothing short of incredible. The man scored five goals in one half in September.

    Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels called Lewandowski "a goal machine," according to Kevin McCauley of SB Nation. Hummels continued, "You can enjoy his goals, even as part of BVB. I had an incredible smile on my face when he scored his five goals. He's just an exceptional striker."

    Lewandowski's swagger isn't just about scoring a lot of goals (although he has been doing that); it's about excelling when it counts, from close range. According to ESPN Stats and Information (via ESPN FC), as of mid-October, Lewandowski was scoring once every 3.5 times he touched the ball in the penalty area.

LeBron James

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    LeBron James doesn't have that "pure scorer" label like, say, Kevin Durant does, but the Cleveland Cavaliers forward gets a spot on this list because of his ability to turn on dominance at will.

    James excels as a facilitator, getting everyone involved and making each of his teammates better. Still, when he has to, the King has the ability to take over a game unlike anyone else. He can simply decide to switch gears and turn into a scoring machine. That is pretty much the definition of swagger.

    During the 2015 NBA Finals, in which James almost single-handedly kept his team in it for six games, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green said, "You can go throw a triple-team at him, and he'll probably still get 40, but as long as you make him work for those 40, then you've got to be satisfied with what you do," per Matt Moore of CBS Sports.

Steven Stamkos

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    Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is one of the NHL's best scorers, largely because of his quickness and agility. He is one of those guys who was just born to score goals, and defenders find it almost impossible to stop him.

    Teammate Tyler Johnson said, per Evan Sporer of NHL.com, "If he gets that extra inch away from a defender and they're able to get him the puck, it's usually in the back of the net."

    As a fan, the lightning (no pun intended) speed with which Stamkos operates is uber-fun to watch. Just look at him burn the league's best goaltender, Montreal's Carey Price, as if it were no big deal.

Odell Beckham Jr.

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    It would be tough to compile a scoring-swagger list without including New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

    It's not just about that one catch. Beckham is one of those freakish-in-a-good-way athletes who make impossible grabs with regularity. He has nine touchdown receptions through Week 12, including one masterful one-hander against Washington. Just like Stephen Curry's pregame warm-ups, even Beckham's practice time would be a treat to watch.

    Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell told Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com, "He's just a good football player, man. He does a lot of things well, and he has great ball skills, his run after the catch is good. Like I said, he's just one of them dudes that's just a great athlete."

Miguel Cabrera

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    There are a lot of beautiful swings in baseball—Bryce Harper's, Jose Bautista's—but they don't get much prettier than that of Miguel Cabrera. 

    The Triple Crown winner has been described as the best pure hitter in baseball today, a statement that is hard to argue. Though his Detroit Tigers faltered in 2015, Cabrera quietly hit .338 en route to his fourth batting title. His hitting swagger translates into runs, too. Miggy tallied 18 home runs and 76 RBI in just 119 games in 2015.

    Aside from mechanics, what makes Cabrera's swing amazing is his ability to hit almost anything. Teammate Victor Martinez said, "What makes him so great and special is that you never, ever, ever catch Miguel off guard. Once he steps up in the box, he's ready to hit. I don't know how he does it," per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

Cam Newton

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    Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has 27 touchdowns through Week 12—20 passing and seven rushing.

    The thing about Newton is that he doesn't just score. He also makes it exciting. Sure, his celebrations are fun to watch, but the scores themselves are as entertaining as they come. Newton's do-anything-to-get-in mentality would probably terrify most head coaches, but it's a big reason the Panthers have started 12-0.

    For real, his Superman TD against the Houston Texans was just about the most fun thing you'll ever see an NFL QB do. 

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Cristiano Ronaldo hasn't won the Ballon d'Or three times for nothing. The Portuguese star is often compared to Lionel Messi as one of the world's greatest soccer players. His footwork, fearless confidence and historically good (although recently declining) free-kick savvy has made him one of the world's most fearsome players with a ball at his feet.

    Ronaldo scored his 500th career goal in September. Of the achievement, Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez told Marca (via ESPN FC), "What Ronaldo does you cannot name, it is on another historic level."

Kevin Durant

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    Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant has the gift of making scoring look easy. Like Miguel Cabrera with a baseball bat, Durant can do damage in many different situations.  

    Zack Harper of CBS Sports wrote in 2014, "Durant is borderline historic at this point. He may even get us talking about him as the best pure scorer of all-time as he continues to approach his basketball prime."

    Tony Sellars of the Associated Press reported (via Thunder Sports Extra) that Russell Westbrook, Durant's teammate, said, "He makes it look easy. Obviously he makes everything he does look easy, but he works hard, and he's put himself in position to come back and show how good a player he is."

    To score seemingly at will like it ain't no thang like Durant does—it's beautiful.  

Alexander Ovechkin

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    Alexander Ovechkin is a scoring machine for the Washington Capitals. In fact, he just became the all-time leading Russian-born scorer in NHL history. However, like many others on this list, it's not just about quantity but also quality. He regularly scores impossible-looking goals and boasts a Messi-like ability to juke defenders.  

    Of Ovechkin, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos told Gary Lawless of TSN, "He's fearless out there. He's got the physical attributes and when he's on his game he demands the puck. … When he gets chance to shoot, it's coming in and it's coming in hot. It's pretty impressive to see the way he can release the puck."

Kobe Bryant

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    The 2015-16 season will be the last for Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant. When considering athletes with the most beautiful scoring abilities in sports, his name surely comes to mind. Bryant's pure talent for scoring has been a hallmark of his career.

    Bryant is third on the NBA's all-time leading scoring list. He dropped 81 points in a game in 2006. Still, he managed to not just score a lot but do so with incredible flair. Sure, he has taken—and missed—a lot of shots, but few in the game have the ability to make the impossible seem possible like the Mamba.

Steph Curry

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    Reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry is showing why he deserved the award as he and the Golden State Warriors execute a historic start to the 2015-16 season. Curry's shot-making abilities are surreal. He makes shots no one has any business making. Even his warm-up routine is must-see basketball these days.

    The legendary Steve Nash told Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, "His ability to make shots and still handle the playmaking duties is historic. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a player more skilled than him in the history of the game."

    High praise.

    Oh, and let's talk about that time Curry celebrated a three before it even went in. Not only are his shots gorgeous, but that man's got swag.

Lionel Messi

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    Argentinian football star Lionel Messi scores some of the prettiest goals you will ever see. His footwork is mesmerizing, his goals placed with impossible perfection. Here he is smoking a defender at just 12 years of age, making the subsequent goal look easy—smooth like butter.

    In June, Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said, "Messi is an extra-terrestrial who plays with us humans," per Joe Prince-Wright of NBC Sports.

    A shoutout should also be made to Messi's club team, FC Barcelona. Even in his two-month absence because of injury, Neymar and crew kept up the gorgeous scoring Barca fans have come to expect.

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