November 26, 2012

Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 3. This year we asked a select group of people from outside the staff to offer nominations for that honor. Charles Barkley's selection was Olympic and U.S. Open champion Andy Murray, and he explains why below as told to Richard Deitsch. Please vote for your Inspiring Performer, Photo of The Year, and Moment of The Year at our Facebook page.

I always root for the guys who have not won a championship because you hate to see guys on that list -- and I would know. I call it the sh-- list. That's why I was rooting for LeBron this year, too. You hate to see great players who don't win the title because every year they bring up all those same names. I've been watching this kid Murray bust his hump over the last couple of years. He has a whole country riding on him, and over and over again, the perception was he had let his country down.

I happened to be at Wimbledon this year and let me tell you, that country was on fire for him. It was crazy, man. All of London stopped every time he played. The energy there was amazing. I was there when Serena Williams won her final [over Agnieszka Radwanska], and then the next day, I watched Murray play Roger Federer from a pub. That emotional, post-match speech after he lost was amazing. I really felt for him.

I've lived and died with Andy for the last two years of his tennis and to finally see him win a major at the U.S. Open was incredible. I know he won at the Olympics. Look, the Olympics are awesome and I've also won an Olympic medal; I have always said the coolest thing for me ever was when they played the national anthem after we won gold [in Barcelona, in 1992]. But I'm not silly enough to think that's the same as winning a world championship.

You know, I have never met Andy Murray but I admire anyone who is the best in the world out there busting his or hump. Everybody was like, "Yeah, Murray's great but he can't win the big one." It's a frustrating thing. He's busting his butt every day but he's playing against probably three of the top 10 tennis players who ever lived. Think about it: Murray is one of the four or five best players in a 10-year period and he happens to playing against three of the best players ever. So when he finally got over the hump, I was so happy for him. And I think he'll win more majors now that the pressure is off because everybody feels that pressure.

His story was so remarkable this year, and I'm excited for him. I am one of the few guys who knows what it is like when you are on that sh--list. They talk about "these are great players but..." It's always a 'but.' So when you are on that list and you see one of those guys get off the list, you get really excited. He's my pick for Sportsman of the Year.

Charles Barkley is an NBA analyst on TNT's popular Inside The NBA program. He was an 11-time NBA All-Star over 16 seasons with Philadelphia, Phoenix and Houston and was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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