Sports Illustrated will name its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 6. Leading up to the announcement, SI writers provided their nominees and the reason why they believe their candidate deserved the annual honor. Click through the gallery to check out 2011's nominees and read excerpts from our stories. "I've always loved college sports, because hey, I loved college and I love sports. It's really as simple as that: Two of our most enjoyable institutions, mixed together into one glorious cocktail. And that is why Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is my Sportsman of the Year. He reminded us that college sports do have redeeming value, in a year when the whole enterprise seemed to be covered in slime." Click here to read more.
2 of 31Damian Strohmeyer/SI
"For more than a year, he has been the best player at (by far) the most important position in American professional sports and led a storied franchise to its most recent championship. For these reasons alone, Rodgers belongs in the Sportsman of the Year discussion. He deserves to win it because he's even better at something else: Waiting." Click here to read more.
3 of 31Noah K. Murray/US Presswire
"If sports are supposed to charge us with emotion, make us laugh and cry in a safe environment, then Eric LeGrand is an amazing athlete. He has elicited whoops from school children and forced veteran journalists to cover the phone so that he couldn't hear them weep. Not simply for happiness or sadness or a feeling of why-me luck -- though those certainly play a part -- but because of how heartening it is to see someone try at something so wholeheartedly and without self-pity. The crying, perhaps, because the person on the other line is suddenly taking account of everything worthwhile in his or her life, and realizing that if a bit of LeGrand perseverance could be bottled and sprinkled into everyday life, then the world would be a better place. Picture LeGrand in his wheelchair, with his mother Karen by his side, answering his Bluetooth with a joyful "What up, dog?" Because, if you're like me, it's probably the most profound thing you'll think about today." Click here to read more.
4 of 31AP
Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith
"I could make a case for Aaron Rodgers or Mike Krzyzewski this year, and I'm sure I'm forgetting others. But we have a football obsession in this country. The NFL was on the verge of nuclear winter, and two men, not being greedy to get everything they wanted in negotiations, made it stop. That makes them Sportsmen." Click here to read more.
5 of 31Simon Bruty/SI
"So far (Carson) Tinker has had a flawless season: not one bad snap. But that's not why he's my pick to be SI's Sportsman of the Year. In the face of heartbreaking tragedy, he's showed courage, strength and character -- the pillars, I believe, of what this award should be all about. He's not only one of the most admired players on the team (when has a long snapper ever achieved that?) but also the emotional heart and soul of Alabama football and, in a larger sense, of all Tuscaloosa, which all this time later is still healing from the events of April 27." Click here to read more.
6 of 31John Biever/SI
"David Freese is my Sportsman of the Year because, in one unforgettable night, he showed us that there's still magic in sports. Because sometimes it's just about the moment, and Freese gave us not one but two of the greatest and thrilling moments of 2011, the improbable, ninth-inning, game-tying Game 6 triple and then, two innings later, the jaw-dropping, 11th-inning walk off home-run that sent the Comeback Cards on their way to a title." Click here to read more.
7 of 31Robert Beck/SI
"According to Baseball Reference's Wins Above Replacement metric, (Matt) Kemp completed the best season for any player, of any ilk, since Barry Bonds in 2004. His statistics alone should make him a strong contender to be named SI's Sportsman of the Year. But the circumstances in which Kemp produced his historic season -- the unrelenting way in which he brought pride to a legendary franchise that had been all but strip-mined of the stuff -- should make him the award winner." Click here to read more.
8 of 31David E. Klutho/SI
Tony La Russa
"Tony La Russa comes from another time, when men with outsized egos and the intuition of generals roamed the dugouts and kicked dirt on the field. He comes from a time of Earl Weaver and Billy Martin, Tommy Lasorda and Whitey Herzog, and there were unquestionably times in the last few years when he seemed like a dinosaur in today's Moneyball world. Maybe he was a dinosaur. But for a couple of months anyway, a dinosaur ruled the earth." Click here to read more.
9 of 31Chuck Solomon/SI
"Truth is, you could consider (Mariano) Rivera SI's Sportsman of the Year almost every year, such is his consistency of performance and character. But the occasion of becoming the all-time saves king is a new, good reason to pick him as my Sportsman. And when I thought about Rivera for this award, I thought about the words and faces of those Tigers coaches. No player in the sport commands more professional respect than Rivera. But that night reminded me that Rivera is still so clearly the very best at his specific sports discipline -- both all time and currently. About whom else can that be said in all of sports?" Click here to read more.
10 of 31Mike Powell/SI
"What's made (Novak) Djokovic's year particularly incredible -- and made him particularly worthy of being named the 2011 Sportsman of the Year -- is the presence of the other two guys. Djokovic won on every surface, on four different continents. He's won in blowouts; he's won tight matches. But perhaps above all, he's done so with Federer and Nadal as contemporaries. In the past, when players have won relentlessly, the cynical response goes like this: 'Yeah, but who's his competition?' In Djokovic's case, you can hardly say that. He was 10-1 in 2011 against two of the best players ever to draw breath. And 60-5 against everyone else." Click here to read more.
11 of 31Greg Nelson/SI
"The Mavs won with older players who appeared to be running out of hope, but they found hope in Nowitzki. In a season dictated by free agency, he was inspired by his relationship of loyalty with owner Mark Cuban, who inherited Nowitzki when he bought the team in 2000 and relentlessly sought a championship formula around his last original Maverick amid the painful departures of Michael Finley and Steve Nash and the negative feedback of so many playoff losses. It made for a timeless story of faith and perseverance, and now it makes Dirk Nowitzki my Sportsman of the Year." Click here to read more.
12 of 31Bob Rosato/SI
"The case for Kemba-as-Sportsman, as Calhoun says, goes deeper than scoring. Consider the circumstances that preceded Kemba's junior season: He was a much-hyped recruit from New York City (nickname: EZ-Pass) who had a glaring flaw in his game -- an unreliable perimeter shot -- and was in danger of never fixing it. He had never been the focal point of a UConn team, or even a UConn backcourt, waiting behind A.J. Price as a freshman and Jerome Dyson as a sophomore. The Huskies were dealing with the specter of NCAA sanctions from the Nate Miles scandal, and Kemba was the de facto leader of a team that was so inexperienced, he was the only one who'd already played in an NCAA tournament game. He was not expected to do all that much." Click here to read more.
13 of 31Bill Frakes/SI
"(Derrick) Rose slithered around 7-foot walls, blistered defenses expressly designed to stop him, and conjured memories of the Jordan age in Chicago with his fourth-quarter flourishes. He won but also entertained, sparking a point-guard revolution in which the ball-handlers became the headliners. Rose transformed himself, and the Bulls, from upstarts to elites. That's why he won MVP, but only part of the reason I am nominating him for SI's Sportsman of the Year." Click here to read more.
14 of 31Bill Frakes/SI
"You search for words to describe Maya Moore and it always comes back to one: winner. It's a simple word with profound implications, but it truly best describes Moore on and off the court. In May, she graduated from UConn as arguably the greatest player in women's college basketball history. Four months later, she helped lead the Minnesota Lynx to the franchise's first WNBA title. During a year in which college scandals dominated the news cycle on a near-daily basis, Moore was a student-athlete sports fans could believe in. She's my Sportswoman of the Year candidate not just for her work this calendar year but for one of the most remarkable collegiate careers we've ever seen." Click here to read more.
15 of 31Greg Nelson/SI
"America loves an underdog, and for three weeks in March, the nation was smitten with Shaka Smart and his VCU Rams. This underdog was no docile Labrador or shiny-haired collie. It was, rather, a cold, wet, mangy mutt -- one that had been spit on, stepped on, put upon, and kicked to the curb by all those so-called experts in their temperature-controlled studios. For proving so many people so wrong, for reminding us of the incomparable power of belief, for delighting and enchanting and entertaining us, for seizing one teachable moment after another, and for putting together the most improbable Final Four run in the 72-year history of the NCAA tournament, the VCU Smart Alecks are my choice to be Sports Illustrated's 2011 Sportsmen of the Year." Click here to read more.
16 of 31Kuhjiro Kinno/SI
"When the tsunami hit back in March, (Ryo) Ishikawa was just a kid of 19. His country had suffered a terrible blow so he did something about it. He announced then that he would donate all of his golf earnings for 2011 to the Japan relief fund ... 'Japan is in a devastating situation,' Ishikawa said in March, via an interpreter. 'There are people who have no homes and we don't know how long it is going to take for Japan to recover. I would just like to give my support to Japan.' He did more than that. He gave of his heart and, in 2011, no one had a bigger one. That makes him the true Sportsman of the Year." Click here to read more.
17 of 31Robert Beck/SI
"(Rory) McIlroy is my Sportsman for the way he handled victory and defeat in 2011, his grace at the Masters and his humility at the U.S. Open. In his most painful professional hour, he maintained his poise despite seeing his skills betray him. He missed short putts and blew drives off the planet. He clanked shots off trees. He hit a water ball on the gorgeous par-5 13th. After it was over, he still posed for a picture with the man who vanquished him, Charl Schwartzel, who was clad in the green jacket that Rory had seemed destined to win. To then turn that nadir into a sweet four-day walk at Congressional was sporting resilience at its highest." Click here to read more.
18 of 31Darren Carroll/SI
"All (Yani Tseng) does is win with grace and dignity. With 11 victories this year, including two major championships, Tseng has become not only golf's most unstoppable force but also the world's most dominant female athlete. Along the way this 22-year old from Taiwan has grown into an ambassador of all that is right with sports, and an easy choice for Sportswoman of the Year." Click here to read more.
19 of 31Mauricio Borsami/ZUMAPRESS.com
Japan Women's Soccer
"Nothing could bring back the 25,000 dead or missing from the enveloping tidal waves that swept six miles inland, and little could recede the growing tension caused by the country's potential nuclear fallout. But after four months spent reeling from the destruction, a magical run by Japan's women's World Cup team shed light on the country for a reason other than tragedy." Click here to read more.
20 of 31Simon Bruty/SI
"It can only be (Lionel) Messi. With apologies to my SI colleagues, smart individuals who have a right to their opinions, to select anyone but Lionel Messi as SI's Sportsman of the Year is a like choosing a Buick over a Benz, Chevy's Fresh Mex over Chez Pannise. Think of the Grand Canyon. Now imagine it twice as wide. That's the gap between Messi's brilliance and that of every other athlete in the world. He's operating on a different plane. He's chess, and everybody else is checkers." Click here to read more.
21 of 31Icon SMI
"The fact that (Abby Wambach) has been the focal point of the U.S. National Team's offense for the better part of a decade -- and has scored goals at a faster rate than legends Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Kristine Lilly and Tiffeny Milbrett -- when she's always the player opponents home in on is a testament to her once-in-a-lifetime talent. It's also why she's my choice for SI's Sportswoman of the Year." Click here to read more.
22 of 31Peter Read Miller/SI
"(Ryan) Lochte's dogged work in the pool, in the weight room, and in his trainer's garage, where he has spent hours whipping heavy ropes and tossing tractor tires, paid off this summer when he won five gold medals at the World Championships in Shanghai, beating the once invincible Phelps twice in the process. For his unfailing belief in himself, for his perseverance, and for giving us all a great storyline to look forward to at the London Games next summer, I nominate Ryan Lochte for Sportsman of the Year." Click here to read more.
23 of 31Robert Beck/SI
"(Tim) Thomas protected his net the way a troll guards his bridge. Based on sheer numbers -- not the least of which was the Bruins' ending a Cup drought of 39 years -- (Tim) Thomas might deserve consideration as SI's Sportsman of the Year. But SI's award also involves, you know, sportsmanship." Click here to read more.
24 of 31Julie Jacobson/AP
"(Ian) Laperriere, who has played with five NHL teams in his 16-year career, feels he's the luckiest man alive. There is nobody -- nobody -- who ever played with or against him who didn't have a good word to say about him.' Tremendous man, tremendous teammate,' former Avalanche captain Joe Sakic says. 'And to kids in need like Ellie Rolfs, a tremendous friend.' That's why Ian Laperriere deserves to be SI's Sportsman of the Year." Click here to read more.
25 of 31Michael O'Neil/SI
Johann Olav Koss
"Agenda Item 1 on the Get Noticed Plan of many athletes is 'to do something for the kids.' That often means a one-day event with a brief appearance, a few hugs and much attendant publicity. But (Johann Olav) Koss roams where newspapers tend not to print. It is his steadfastness, his resolute optimism and his results -- an estimated 700,000 kids in 20 countries are serviced by Right to Play each week -- that should earn Koss the distinction of being the first Sportsman of the Year both on and off the field." Click here to read more.
26 of 31Reuters
"You know how the ASP found out it had jumped the gun in crowning (Kelly) Slater? Slater told them. He'd seen a blog post questioning the ASP's math, did some figuring himself and got a little investigation underway. He didn't want to win the title early. The most dominant athlete of his time, any sport, wanted to do what he's always done: earn it. A competitor. A Sportsman." Click here to read more.
27 of 31AP
"So it stands to reason that those who expose the hollow cant and hypocrisy of the BCS are advancing the cause of sportsmanship. It makes perfect sense, then, to bestow my Sportsmen of the Year award on Matt Sanderson and his band of big-brained, like-minded lawyers at the indispensible Playoff PAC. Sanderson, now 30, is a Washington, D.C.-based attorney at Caplin & Drysdale who 'inherited my Mom's knack for getting people to do things for free.' In the fall of 2009, he and five friends cofounded Playoff PAC, "dedicated to establishing a competitive post-season championship for college football." Working on a bare bones budget -- they've raised roughly $15,000 in two years of existence -- and volunteering their time, this small group of gadflies has had an outsized effect on the national debate. Just ask John Junker (pictured right)." Click here to read more.
28 of 31AP
"He didn't win, of course, but Robles did what he's done all his life after taking a fall. He got up again. He went back to the NCAAs last spring as a senior, and this time, he came away with the championship that he wanted so badly, not to mention a 36-0 record and the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler award. But it isn't just the championship and the honors that make Robles a worthy candidate for Sportsman of the Year -- it's all the times he kept getting up again." Click here to read more.
29 of 31Reuters
Fred Lunn, Anton Sealey
"Anton Sealey is the president of the Bahamas Football Association. His vice-president is Fred Lunn. Together they blew the whistle on a cash-for-votes bribery scheme that brought down two of the three most powerful men in FIFA. In May, while Sealey was in Zurich preparing for the FIFA Congress, he sent Lunn to a special meeting of the Caribbean Football Union in Trinidad convened by CONCACAF president Jack Warner (pictured) and FIFA presidential candidate Mohammed bin Hammam of Qatar." Click here to read more.
30 of 31Courtesy of Twin Cities Public Television
"During a year in which reality made countless nasty incursions into the world of sports, my Sportsman of the Year is the guy who saw it coming. Robert Lipsyte always sees it coming. If you're not of a certain generation, his name may not be familiar -- Lipsyte began at the New York Times the year I was born, and I've pushed a notebook for more than 30 years -- but he took with him into the profession, and has never abandoned, a sensibility that serves both my business and sports very well. It's the sensibility of the outsider. And that point of view is what these times call for." Click here to read more.
31 of 31AP
"No athlete in 2011 more embodied the spirit of achievement than (Dewey) Bozella, whose indomitable will earns my vote for Sportsman of the Year." Click here to read more.
You May Like
More More Sports
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!