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This is an article from the Dec. 8, 2008 issue
On SI.com, 35writers contributed essays on who they think deserves the magazine's highesthonor. Here are six excerpts.
Track deserves arock-solid place among the most valued sports on the planet. To regain thisfoothold, it needs many things, but nothing more than a transcendent star whoseimage becomes the screensaver for the next generation. For a week in Beijing,Usain Bolt was all of this. He jumped on the gurney, straddled a dying sportand applied paddles to its chest, giving it life.
By Tim Layden
Rafael Nadalpummels the ball, unfurling a lefty game that has no precedent. Yet his realstrength is the mental variety. Nadal is that rare athlete whose game moves inlockstep with the stakes.
By L. Jon Wertheim
As a collegian,an Olympian and a pro in 2008 Candace Parker morphed into what had been anelusive figure in women's basketball: a mainstream draw. The curious werehooked.
By Selena Roberts
Kurt Warner hasbeen hurt and benched and risen to play great football. In every place he hasbeen a people magnet because he never allows Warner the athlete to defineWarner the person.
By Peter King
The U.S. Openalone makes Tiger Woods a candidate. What seals the deal is the great, roaringvacuum that his departure created. Without Tiger, only people who play golfwill follow golf.
By Chris Ballard
When the Brewersended Milwaukee's 26-year playoff drought on the season's final day, there wasno player who had poured more of himself into the playoff bid than CCSabathia.
By Luke Winn
YOUR LINK TO SPORTS HISTORY
DECEMBER 23, 1968
Celticsplayer-coach Bill Russell was named Sportsman of the Year after winning a 10thNBA title. SI's George Plimpton spent a day with Russell.
THE TROPHIES aredownstairs in a cellar room that has a covered pool table in the middle, anunstocked bar at one end and posters of Allen Ginsberg and Marlon Brando on thewall. The room is dark and dusty and apparently little used. Russell says thathe hopes to devote the floor space to a large electric train system for hischildren and also for himself. He'd clear everything out for that, includingthese trophies. These stand in a tall case—rows of them, mostly yard-highreplicas of players poised, right arm up, to shoot one-handed shots with silverbasketballs. They commemorate one of the most remarkable records in sports: 14years of play at the pinnacle of basketball—two years leading the University ofSan Francisco to the national championship and 12 years with the Celtics,leading them to 10 world championships and one second-place finish.
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