Putting our affiliations and biases aside we have come up with a list of the most outstanding athletes of the 2011-2012 season. We’re sure there will be lots of controversy over this ranking so feel free to comment. Make the JUMP to see who is who, and what is what…
1.) LeBron James
There is no athlete on the planet under a bigger microscope than LeBron James. The much-maligned Miami Heat superstar turned into one of the most polarizing figures in sports after announcing on a live ESPN special that – after seven years – he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to “take his talents to South Beach” and join fellow All-Stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
After eight seasons without a championship, many began to wonder if James had what it took to win it all. But those doubts were quickly cast aside when the 6-foot-8, 250-pound forward finally captured that elusive title behind a string of magical playoff performances. The Heat took care of the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games, and James, who averaged 28.6 points, 7.4 assists and 10.2 rebounds in the series, was named Finals MVP.
2) Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers began 2011 by leading his team to a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. Rodgers, who was named Super Bowl MVP, completed 24-of-39 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the most-watched program in American Cable.TV history.
The next season, Rodgers earned NFL MVP honors after leading the Green Bay Packers to an incredible 15-1 record. He threw for 4,643 yards and 45 touchdowns while completing nearly 70% of his passes. His 122.5 quarterback rating was nearly 12 points higher than anyone else in the NFL.
3) Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic began his ascent to the top of the tennis world in 2011. He won 10 ten tournaments that year, including three Grand Slam victories at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Nicknamed “Djoker,” the right-handed Serb also set records for most ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles (five) and most prize money ($12 million) earned in a single ATP World Tour season.
Overall, Djokovic finished the 2011 season ranked No. 1 in the world with an eye-popping 70-6 record. Tennis legend Pete Sampras called Djokovic’s season “one of the best achievements in all of sports.”
4) Justin Verlander
You’d be hard-pressed to find a pitcher who’s been better than Justin Verlander over the last two seasons. The Detroit Tigers’ ace capped off a legendary 2011 season by winning the American League (AL) pitching triple crown with a 24-5 record, 250 strikeouts and a 2.40 ERA. In addition to being selected to his fourth All-Star team, Verlander was named the AL Cy Young Award winner and the AL MVP for the 2011 season.
Verlander also pitched the second no-hitter of his career against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 22, 2011.
5) Jonathan Quick
Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was the anchor behind one of the most improbable championship runs in sports history. The Los Angeles Kings entered the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs as a No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, and most people didn’t even give them a chance to get past the No. 1 seed Vancouver Canucks in the first round. However, the Kings would go on to beat the Canucks and never look back, largely due to the outstanding play of their goalie.
Quick posted a 16-4 record, a .946% save percentage, a 1.4.1 GAA (Goals Against Average) and three shutouts during the 2012 playoffs. He was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy following the Kings’ first-ever Stanley Cup victory over the New Jersey Devils.