TOP 10 Athletes

By DeMarco Williams

If you're not a San Francisco 49ers fan or a fantasy football enthusiast, the name George Kittle probably doesn't mean much to you. But on December 30, the talented tight end had a nine-catch, 149-yard game, which gave him 1,377 yards for the year, a new NFL record for his position.

That same day, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes joined Peyton Manning as the only QBs to ever throw for more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a single season.

But the eye-popping stats and jaw-dropping highlights weren't reserved for the football field. Just about everywhere sports fans looked in 2018, from the snowy slopes of South Korea to muddy horse tracks in Kentucky, something amazing was happening.

Here are the 10 people who dazzled us the most over the past 12 months.

1. Kylian MbapPE
If you could multiply the pressure that Josef Martinez felt leading the Atlanta United to their first MLS crown by 100, you'd only begin to grasp all that was upon Mbappé's shoulders this year. Seeing as how the then-19-year-old blur not only became the youngest French player to ever score a FIFA World Cup goal but he also guided his nation to the trophy over Croatia, it doesn't appear the stress will ever get to him.

2. Chloe Kim
While last February's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, may already feel like a distant memory, there's one person from the Games that we'll never forget — Chloe Kim, a charismatic snowboarder, then 17, who came onto the scene with a heap of hype and left with a gold medal in the halfpipe.

3. Breanna Stewart
The Seattle Storm star followed a Rookie of the Year-winning 2016 and an All-Star-earning 2017 with a 2018 for the record books. Stewart took home the WNBA MVP, led the Storm to the championship, won the Finals MVP and found herself in the "Best female basketball player in the world" conversation with Minnesota's Maya Moore.

4. Kyler Murray
Some folks might call the Oklahoma Sooners QB's season a disappointment because of how things ended against Alabama in the College Football Playoff, but for us to discount all the spectacular things that Murray did (54 total TDs, 4,361 passing yards and a Heisman Trophy) would be silly.

5. Justify
We promise you that it's not easy to win a Triple Crown. Hell, only two horses since 1978 have even done it. But because of how elementary Justify made things look this season — the colt won the Kentucky Derby by 2 1/2 lengths — we fully understand why you might think otherwise.

6. Simone Biles
Had 2018 been a Summer Olympics year, Ms. Biles would probably be No. 1 on our list. But seeing as how the gifted gymnast ONLY dominated the World Championships in Doha to the tune of four golds, she'll have to be content with this spot for now.

7. Kevin Durant
In sweeping LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, the entire Golden State Warriors team could have earned a slot here. But since we're talking individual honors, we have to go with KD, the sharp-shooting forward who won back-to-back Finals MVP after a regular season where he averaged 26 points, nearly seven rebounds and at least one long three-pointer with an opponent's hands in his nose.

8. Alex Ovechkin
The Vegas Golden Knights' come-from-nowhere Western Conference title was the NHL's top feel-good story, but it was Ovi's stellar play in the playoffs (15 postseason goals) that sealed the Washington Capitals' first Stanley Cup title, got him the Conn Smythe Trophy (for playoff MVP) and cemented him a position here.

9. Eliud Kipchoge
It's one thing to set a new world record in the marathon, but it's something completely different to simply destroy the old mark by a whopping one minute and 19 seconds — usually, when a runner breaks the record, he'll do so by a mere few seconds — like Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge did in Berlin this past September.

10. Mookie Betts
The lineup for the World Series champion Boston Red Sox was filled with stars, but the brightest one of them all was the diminutive Betts, a 5'9" outfielder who hit with precision (.346 batting average) and power (32 HRs) all year. Betts also became the first player in MLB history to get the MVP, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, batting title and a World Series ring in the same season.

Honorable Mentions: Stephen Curry (NBA), Brooks Koepka (PGA), Rafael Nadal (tennis), Tua Tagovailao (NCAA football) and Serena Williams (tennis).

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