We romanticize athletes like Michael Jordan, Jack Nicklaus, Mickey Mantle, and Johnny Unitas, but many people weren’t around when those athletes were in their prime. Even if you were their biggest fan during their peak periods, there were technological limitations that kept you from actually seeing them in all of their glory. As we moved into the new millennium, we saw technology advance at a rapid pace, allowing us access to more and more games and competitions. Niche sports channels became common and internet feeds filled in the gaps which were still not filled by traditional TV outlets. Real-time stat tracking and expert analysis took over the sports world as smart phones and the internet became more ubiquitous. The athletes that competed between 2000 and 2009 were some of the most scrutinized and most talented ever. The amount of access that sports fans now have to athletic events all over the globe makes it possible for us to have a historical grasp on an athlete’s performance without having to wait for their trading card to come out next year. These are the five best athletes of the 2000s.
Tom Brady – Best Football Player of the ’00s
The first half of the 2000s were dominated by Tom Brady. He led the New England Patriots to victories in Super Bowls XXVI, XXXVIII, and XXXIX, winning the MVP award at two of those Super Bowls. While the Super Bowl victories waned after the mid-2000s, his performance on the field was still top-notch and he was the NFL passing yards leader in 2005 and 2007. Tom Brady simply guaranteed himself a spot in the canon of the best NFL quarterbacks to ever play the game. The Patriots quarterback was named to the NFL’s 2000s All Decade Team.
Roger Federer – Best Tennis Player of the ’00s
Roger Federer won his first Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon in 2003 and from then on his dominance never waned. The Swiss tennis star was ranked number one in the world for 237 consecutive weeks from 2004 to 2008. Even the biggest tennis icons struggle in some environments, but Roger Federer proved he could play with the best of the tennis world on hard, clay, and grass courts. His dominance at Wimbledon, the US Open, the Australian Open, and the French Open is unprecedented.
Michael Phelps – Best Swimmer of the Decade
If you were to ask the average American to name three professional swimmers, they would probably name Michael Phelps and then look at you awkwardly. Michael Phelps became the single most famous swimmer of all-time by dominating the sport like few sports have ever been dominated. Michael Phelps was named Swimming World Magazine’s World Swimmer of the Year in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. The American swimming icon took home six Gold Medals at the 2004 Athens Games, but solidified himself as one of the best athletes of the 2000s and of all-time when he won a record-setting eight Gold Medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Albert Pujols – Best Baseball Player of the 2000s
Albert Pujols’ list of accomplishments and accolades could fill a small book but his success on the field has clearly made him one of the best baseball players of the ’00s. Albert Pujols led the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series Championship in 2006, and his personal feats cannot be overstated. He won the Silver Slugger Award in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2009. The baseball icon was named the Sporting News Player of the Year in 2003, 2008, and 2009, and he was also named Major League Baseball’s Player of the Year those same years. Albert Pujols took home the ESPY Award for Best MLB player in 2005, 2006, and 2009.
Tiger Woods – Golfer of the Decade
No player has ever dominated the game of golf like Tiger Woods and his performance during the ’00s was nothing short of game-changing. He revolutionized the game and made people take notice, raising the level of competition and television ratings. Tiger Woods won the Masters in 2001, 2002, and 2005; the US Open in 2000, 2002, and 2008; the Open Championship in 2000, 2005, and 2006; and the PGA Championship in 2000, 2006, and 2007. Tiger Woods’ masterful golf performances made him one of the best athletes of the ’00s and the best golfer to ever play the game.
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