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Rick Zamperin: The best athletes of the decade

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2017.
Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

As we wind down 2019, and in particular the last decade, I’ve been thinking about which sports stars have been the best at their craft over the last 10 years.

On Tuesday, the Canadian Soccer Association named Christine Sinclair its first-ever Canada Soccer Player of the Decade — an obvious choice given that the 36-year-old Burnaby, B.C., native has been named the CSA’s Female Player of the Year seven times (2010, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’14, ’16 and ’18) over the last 10 years while leading our country to back-to-back bronze medals at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016.

How did I come about compiling my list? There isn’t a magic formula that takes into account the number of championships won or records that have been broken. This list is based on the simple eye test of athletes who have dominated their sport over the last 3,650 days.

Click to play video 'Soccer star Christine Sinclair helps raise funds and awareness around multiple sclerosis' Soccer star Christine Sinclair helps raise funds and awareness around multiple sclerosis
Soccer star Christine Sinclair helps raise funds and awareness around multiple sclerosis

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is considered the NFL’s G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All-Time) and is a no-brainer on this list with five Super Bowl appearances this decade and three titles. When it comes to the Canadian Football League, former Toronto and Edmonton QB Ricky Ray is my choice.

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The best baseball player from 2010-19 is L.A. Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Even though he hasn’t gotten a sniff at a World Series title, Trout is an all-around stud at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field who has won three American League MVP Awards and is an eight-time MLB All-Star.

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Stephen Curry gets an honourable mention, but LeBron James takes the cake on the basketball court. King James led his teams (Miami and Cleveland) to eight-consecutive NBA Finals appearances and three rings.

There have been some legendary tennis players this decade, including Roger Federer, the greatest ever, as well as Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, but my choice is Novak Djokovic. “The Joker” has won 15 grand slam titles this decade and has been a runner up on eight other occasions.

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The top golfer over the last 10 years has been Rory McIlroy. He has four major titles, has finished in the top 10 another 14 times and is consistently among the highest-earning golfers on the planet.

The Messi vs. Ronaldo debate will live on forever, but for this purpose, the Portuguese super striker gets my vote. Lionel Messi has dominated for club (Barcelona) and country (Argentina) and Cristiano Ronaldo has done the same, but the difference is the latter has achieved success in Spain (Real Madrid), Italy (Juventus) and with his national team.

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Sprinter Usain Bolt and swimmer Michael Phelps are the greatest Olympians of all-time, and certainly of this decade, winning a combined 18 medals, including 15 gold.

Connor McDavid is arguably the best hockey player in the world right now, but Sidney Crosby tops the chart over the last 10 years. Crosby guided Canada to two Olympic goal medals — highlighted by his golden goal in 2010 in Vancouver — and has been the best all-around player of his generation.

There are so many more athletes that have made an incredible mark during this decade, but these men and women are at the top of my list.

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