When a 17-year-old Sharapova burst onto the scene in 2004 by winning Wimbledon, she was an immediate hit. Sure, her 6-foot-2 frame and model-like looks don't hurt, but with a power game that is every bit as strong as the Williams sisters' and a first serve that, when she lands it, is arguably the best in the women's game, Sharapova has proven that she's more than just a pretty face.
2 of 15Robert Beck/SI
If a man is willing to brush his own son off the plate with a high and tight fastball while throwing batting practice, think of what he's willing to do to major league hitters he's supposed to get out. Suffice it to say, National League hitters weren't jumping for joy when Clemens announced that he would return to the mound for the Astros in June. After all, it was only last year, at the age of 42, that Clemens led the bigs with a 1.87 ERA -- nothing out of the ordinary for a seven-time Cy Young Award winner with more than 340 wins to his credit.
3 of 15David E. Klutho/SI
By age 17, he was already being compared to such legends as Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr. Gretzky himself called the young center with the uncanny vision, passing skills and scoring touch the best player "since Mario" and the one most likely to shatter the Great One's records. Crosby got off to an auspicious start during his rookie season with the Penguins, becoming the youngest player in NHL history (18 years, 253 days) to top 100 points (39 goals, 63 assists), shattering Lemieux's rookie team scoring mark (100).
4 of 15John Biever/SI
The Bengals star has developed the game to match his outrageous personality and can be counted on for an electrifying performance every Sunday. He's got tons of speed, great hands and is almost impossible to tackle in the open field. And if you watched any NFL highlights last year, you know there's no one in sports who can match Johnson in his ability to celebrate creatively.
5 of 15Chuck Solomon/SI
Whether it's striking out five of the top six NL hitters (as he did in the 1999 All-Star Game) or knocking batters out of the game who dare stand too close to the plate (as he did to Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano in 2003), Martinez brings a swagger to the mound that few others in the game possess. Watch any game Pedro pitches and you'll notice an increased energy level throughout the crowd, an unmistakable buzz that only surrounds the elite of the elite. Yes, he can be a little frisky and combative (just ask Don Zimmer), but that's part of the Pedro package, and baseball fans wouldn't have it any other way.
6 of 15Bob Rosato/SI
The most unique quarterback to come into the NFL in a long time, Vick is as skilled with the ball in the open field as any running back and has a stronger arm than any other quarterback. Although his passes aren't always accurate, there's nothing more breathtaking than watching the Falcons QB evade a rush and throw the ball 70 yards downfield with just a flick of the wrist.
7 of 15Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images
From his jaw-dropping dribbling skills to his electric shot to his contagious toothy grin, no one embodies thrilling soccer like two-time World Player of the Year Ronaldinho. If the Brazilian delivers on the hype at the World Cup, he might be the next one-word household name -- even in the United States.
8 of 15Robert Beck/SI
Sure, he may be the most polarizing figure in sports, but he's also the most intriguing. Did he use performance-enhancing steroids? Is he as disliked by his teammates as some have reported? Are we watching the final seasons of baseball's greatest home run hitter? And, wow, did he really just hit that ball 500 feet at the age of 41? Damn right he did.
9 of 15John Biever/SI
Never mind that Bush went No. 2 in April's NFL draft -- the USC star and Heisman Trophy winner was the most electrifying player in college football. Bush led the nation with 222.3 all-purpose yards per game and scored 19 touchdowns in 2005, highlighted by his 513-yard effort against Fresno State on Nov. 19 that was loaded with jaw-dropping runs.
10 of 15Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Even if you don't like him, it's hard to keep your eyes off the Cowboys' new wide receiver. Owens' rare combination of speed, size and hands makes him the most dangerous offensive threat in the NFL. No receiver can turn a routine short pass into a long gain more consistently than T.O. And once he gets to the end zone, who knows what he'll do?
11 of 15Noah Graham/Getty Images
Perhaps the NBA's most ruthless player, Bryant has made a career of crushing opponents' hopes with buzzer-beating shots. Already the owner of three title rings, Bryant almost single-handedly beat the Toronto Raptors in January by scoring 81 points to lead the Lakers to a 122-104 comeback win. The eight-time All-Star, also one of the league's most suffocating defenders, won the NBA scoring title in 2005-06 with 35.4 points per game.
12 of 15John Biever/SI
Shaquille O'Neal may be the engine that powers the Miami Heat, but Wade is the driver. Fearless in attacking the hoop, Wade has developed an improving jumper, leaving opponents few options when it comes to slowing down the 6-foot-4 Marquette product.
13 of 15David E. Klutho/SI
Baseball's most complete hitter has yet to see a pitch he couldn't punish. Power? Try five straight seasons of at least 34 homers, and 25 in his first 51 games this year. Average? How about .331 over the course of his career. And for those sabermetricians out there, the Cardinals first baseman gets on base 41 percent of the time. That's not a bad start for a 26-year-old, huh?
14 of 15Al Tielemans/SI
He's the finest golfer of his generation and likely will go down as the best golfer of all time. He may not always lap the field like he used to, but he's still capable of pulling out a miracle, as he did with his chip shot at the 2005 Masters. And you can't put a price on miracles.
15 of 15Greg Nelson/SI
In dispatching the Wizards and making the Pistons sweat in the 2006 NBA playoffs, James demonstrated why he is perhaps the most dangerous player in pro basketball. Capable of slicing through defenses for rim-rattling dunks or dissecting them with pinpoint passing, James is one of those rare players who is not only the best player on the floor but capable of making those around him better, too.
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