Before 2010 runs out on us and turns into 2011, we choose the guys who stood out above the rest this year – Sportige.com’s 2010 Athletes of the year in the NFL, NBA, Tennis and Soccer.

Rafael Nadal

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Three grand slam titles, completing the career grand slam (7th player in history), capturing his fifth Roland Garros, second Wimbledon and finally, his first US Open title, making it to 9 grand slam titles. He won three more Masters titles (Madrid, Rome and Monte Carlo), making it to 18, plus another “regular” title in Tokyo, making it 7 for 2010 and 43 for his career. More importantly than the numbers, Nadal came back after a very rough 2009 and 17 months without a Slam title or final appearance. He’s the world number one again, looking more dominant than ever before.

Pau Gasol

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It’s not that Kobe wasn’t good. He was great. He won the Finals MVP. And LeBron James was the person that by far made the most news and played the best basketball for the most part. Or Maybe it was Kevin Durant, who propelled himself into a top 5 kind of player and led the Men’s team to their first World Championship title since 1994. We still have Gasol, who carried the Lakers on his back in the finals. Yes, Kobe scored more, but on more than one occasion, with the Lakers pinned to the wall by the surging Celtics, it was Gasol who stepped up, on defense and on offense, making the difference.

His Game 7 stat line, if you need some help remembering – 19 points, 18 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Gasol had a nice good rest this summer, deciding to have Spain play without him in the World Championship. He started out on fire for the Lakers in the first month before cooling off. There are better players than Gasol in the NBA, but the way he raised his game to superstar level when it mattered the most this year gives him our vote.

Xavi

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This was hard. Yes, Lionel Messi is the best player in the world. Maybe the best player ever. Wesley Sneijder had an amazing year with Inter and the Dutch national team, winning the treble with the Italian giants and leading the oranje to the World Cup Finals only to lose 1-0 in extra time to that Andres Iniesta goal. Still, whether it is in Barca or Spain uniform, Xavi was the most influential and dominant player in 2010. He was pretty much the apprentice of the man who is now his head coach, Josep Guardiola, but he has certainly surpassed him on the playing field. Soccer isn’t a stat sport, but Barcelona’s win and goal column these past few years is the best way to judge how good they are, and they are that good because Xavi has evolved into the perfect playmaker, who works everyone well and thanks to his work in the middle of the park, Messi can be as great as he is.

Drew Brees


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Winning the XLIV Super Bowl, the New Orleans Saints’ first  Super Bowl win and winning the MVP of the game with a Super Bowl record of 32 completions, finishing with 288 yards and 2 touchdown passes in the 31-17 win over the Colts should be enough, right? Brees hasn’t stopped in 2010. His passer rating is down (92.2, his lowest since 2007), but the Saints are 11-4 and Brees has 32 touchdown passes, two shy of his career best 34 (2008 and 2009). Again, it’s more than the stats. It’s the leadership. It’s the connection to the team and the city and making the Saints a team with a winning mentality. He didn’t make the most headlines. Brett Favre did. Where’s Favre and where’s Brees this year? And to think the Chargers got rid of him a few years back. Great decision.

If you feel like someone else deserves our recognition, don’t be afraid to tell us.