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. Hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar's selection was Serena Williams, and he explains why below as told to Bryan Armen Graham. Please vote for your Inspiring Performer, Photo of the Year and Moment of the Year at our Facebook page.
What makes Serena Williams special, from my point of view, is the fact she comes from where I come from: the city of Compton. Just coming from that type of area to amount to something positive and put so much drive into what she does, that's unique. I know how hard she worked for it to come out of that place and to make it to where she's at. That right there separates you from everybody.
As far as her athleticism, that's a whole other ballgame. She's the best at what she does. It proves that hard work and dedication over many years can take you anywhere: from playing on Compton tennis courts all the way to Wimbledon.
She's a little bit older than me, but I was definitely aware of Serena when she first got into the sport and made it to the big playing fields. Being a youngin' in middle school and hearing about Serena and Venus; it was crazy for us. That inspired me, to know that she comes from where I come from and now she's in front of television cameras everywhere doing what she's doing. Not only doing it, but doing it at the highest level possible. We've never met but I definitely feel a connection with Serena: the connection of keeping our city alive with positivity, whether it's with music or with sports. The connection of making something out of ourselves after coming from an area with a negative stigma. I will always feel that between us.
Over the past few years she's had some health problems that made it seem like she might never play again. But it didn't surprise me she came back to win Wimbledon, two Olympic gold medals and the U.S. Open this year. When you come from the soil of Compton, you can't do nothing but be strong. Personally I feel no matter what obstacles are in her way, she will always be able to defeat them, just by how she was able to overcome her illness. I feel like she can go as long as she wants to go and continue to do it because she's a very strong person.
What Serena has done for young women is tremendous. Anyone can go out there and do something negative and misrepresent themselves and women as a population. But Serena has been a role model to girls not only in Compton but girls around the world. I have a little sister myself. She's 11 years old. She lives in Compton and she looks up to Serena. Just seeing it first hand shows me the amount of influence she has, not only to the culture of sports, but the culture of women and the population of women around the world.
She has always been true to herself and true to where she comes from. She's always represented her community and represented her struggle. She's put her story out there. Not a lot of people would do that, not being in such great health. But that's being true to herself, knowing that her story can help somebody else survive no matter what situation they're in.
The amount of drive that she has, to overcome the roadblocks and obstacles that she's had in her personal life and to see through her dreams and to still get where she wanted to be, that's what separates Serena from everybody else. And that's what makes her my pick for Sportsman of the Year.
Kendrick Lamar is a musician from Compton, Calif. His major-label debut, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, debuted at No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart in October, selling more than 242,000 copies in its first week.