On Thursday, TIME released its annual TIME 100, which is a list of the world's most influential people, including prominent names such as Beyonce, Pope Francis and President Obama. Joining these global icons are several sports figures, a group that features Richard Sherman, Serena Williams, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jason Collins and Lydia Ko.
All of these athletes, particularly Sherman, Collins and Ko, significantly raised their profiles in the last year. Ronaldo and Williams, meanwhile, simply added to their already impressive list of accomplishments.
Sherman was named to the list not only for his play, but also for the national dialogue he started after his famous rant following Seattle's victory over San Francisco in this year's NFC Championship game. Writes Sean Gregory:
Sherman’s rant solidified his reputation as one of the brashest and most candid players in the buttoned-up NFL. More important, it sparked a national conversation about race, stereotyping and sportsmanship. When critics labeled the dreadlocked defensive star a “thug,” Sherman, a Compton, Calif.–raised Stanford graduate, engaged the debate, asking if the term was today’s way of calling him the N word? In a heartbeat, Sherman altered the discourse and emerged as the smartest voice in the room.
Jason Collins is featured in the TIME 100 due to his trailblazing decision last year to become the first openly gay athlete in major American professional sports, coming out in a Sports Illustrated article. Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in an NBA game earlier this year when he was signed by the Brooklyn Nets.
Serena Williams didn't necessarily raise her profile in the last year, but that's mostly because she is already a tennis icon. In the TIME 100, Heat star Dwyane Wade writes that Serena is "a world-class athlete and a true champion in every sense of the word."
Soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Portugal is also featured on the list after he won the Ballon d'Or, given annually to the world's best player. Writing about Ronaldo, legendary footballer Pelé writes that it is "no surprise that [Ronaldo] is currently considered the best soccer player in the world."
Professional golfer Lydia Ko, who turned 17 on Thursday, is another sports figure on the TIME 100. Ko, a New Zealander born in South Korea, has already won twice on the LPGA tour. Former professional golfer Annika Sorenstam writes in the TIME 100 that Ko has made a huge impact on the sport already:
Lydia Ko is exceptionally talented, mature beyond her years and well liked by golf fans and competitors alike. She is responsible for sparking increased interest in our sport not just in her native South Korea and adopted homeland of New Zealand but also among juniors across the globe.